A Revitalized and Reenergized NAACP
Ready for 21st-Century Challenges
By Judith L. Turnock
As the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) closes its centennial celebrations, dynamic young President and Chief Executive Officer Benjamin Todd Jealous reflects on the venerable organization’s achievements, which have dramatically changed America for the better, and sees a firm foundation for corporate partnerships to solve 21st-century challenges.
Every company, every American, has benefited from battles we’ve waged,” declares Jealous, who has been the NAACP’s chief executive officer for just over one year. “When barriers are removed for some, everyone is better off.” Corporate leaders have realized the truth of that proposition from the beginning. Many have served on the NAACP board and as officers, volunteers and funders. The value of the partnership strategy is even more compelling today.
AT&T Support for Workforce Education
AT&T Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President Randall Stephenson, who chairs the 2009–2010 $5 Million Corporate Campaign, explains his company’s current and longtime commitment: “I am passionate…because the NAACP programs focus on youth in America—making sure they stay in school, get an outstanding education and are prepared to become productive members of the workforce.” The NAACP, Jealous assures, is equally clear about the business agenda: “A better-educated workforce leads to more competitive companies, and a wealthier customer base leads to economic growth.”
Education is indeed the key ingredient in successful and productive lives, and NAACP efforts have always sprung from that premise. The initial focus was the decades-long legal battle to desegregate schools. Today the focus is the quality of that education. The NAACP programs get young people back to school, keep them there and motivate them to academic and career success.
Lowes-Sponsored Back to School/Stay in School
The Lowes-sponsored Back to School/Stay in School (BTS/SIS) Program operates in churches, schools and community centers across the nation. The program cultivates a sense of purpose in elementary school students through extra academic support, parent and family workshops, and recognition of improvements in student behavior and lower levels of absenteeism. “We give students a life mission so they realize their ability to make transformative change, whether nationally or right where they live,” explains Jealous. “Our graduates, like Roland Martin, Donna Brazile, Jim Clyburn and Rosa Parks, prove we’re on the right track.”
UPS, Starbucks and the Youth & College Division
UPS and Starbucks are invaluable partners in the Youth & College Division, which reaches more than 100,000 high school students. Youth councils across the country galvanize energy, encourage community involvement and open the option of higher education to the students.
“We give students a life mission so they realize their ability to make
transformative change, whether nationally or right where they live.”
Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO, NAACP
Verizon is the lead sponsor of ACT-SO, the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics, which annually awards high school students at NAACP local chapters gold, silver and bronze medals for outstanding achievement in 26 categories in the sciences, humanities, business and performing and visual arts. This yearlong enrichment program is run by local staff and community and business-leader volunteers who serve as mentors and coaches, and includes roughly 9,000 students every year. Local gold medal winners compete for 100 national medals, and each year those medals are awarded at the annual NAACP Convention. Examples of former national medalists are Kanye West, John Singleton and Jada Pinkett-Smith, who still serve as mentors.
UPS-Sponsored Initiative to Digitize Local History
A new online initiative, sponsored by UPS, is bringing the value of these local mentoring and support programs to anyone with a computer. This project digitizes local histories and local heroes and makes them accessible through a social network, so that anyone, even someone in the smallest town without an NAACP chapter, can find “mini-mentoring” and other enrichment experiences, or just a sympathetic ear. UPS employees volunteer as mentors and provide more-direct services, such as reviewing business plans and providing internships.
The NAACP’s people-oriented “joint strategy of service and activism” has never wavered. This means the NAACP builds individual and community leadership—what Jealous calls “an army of skilled and committed local volunteers”—to stand behind its advocacy for transformational change. Respect for steadfast adherence to this top-down, bottom-up strategy has come full circle. “Everyone is taking a new look at the NAACP and seeing its relationship to enrichment in their own lives,” says Jealous. “We have credibility at the street level and the policy level, because we come with a century of success.”
One result of this renewed appreciation is a new partnership with the Gates Foundation: “We are developing a strategy for educational changes that will finally realize access to quality education for all Americans,” says Jealous, “and our success will depend on our in-place army of volunteers. We will need the leadership of all 1,200 local offices.”
Another result is the growth of the NAACP. Membership is up 35% in the last 12 months (50% since Jealous took over in September 2008), and revenues have increased 20% (30% since September 2008). “Even in the middle of a recession,” says Jealous, “we’ve been able to increase staff and charter new local branches.”
A New Hope—And a New Urgency
Certainly the election of Barack Obama, breaking the 233-year racial barrier around the White House, explains some of the new interest. The current economic challenges are also factors. “Many of our communities have been in recession for the last 40 years,” Jealous declares, and today great swaths of society have joined them. “We as a nation have realized how closely interrelated we all are,” he reasons, “so it would be a shame to miss this opportunity to correct past oversights. We need our leaders to bail out not just Wall Street and Main Street, but also Back Street.”
The renewed sense of hope in the average American is coupled with a sense of urgency, and Jealous sees these trends as further opportunity for the NAACP. “There was great excitement on Inauguration Day,” he explains, “but on January 21 families had the same old questions. The aspirations of children have skyrocketed, but the reality is incremental change. Is it possible to bring about change quickly enough to hold off young people’s frustration, to fill the gap between hope and reality? Of course. That’s what the NAACP does.”
Jealous sees the NAACP’s work in the proudest tradition of American democracy. “We’ve always as a country taken on great challenges and brought about great changes. The NAACP does the same thing. We take on the big challenges, we start the tough conversations, we take one step at a time, and we keep on until it’s finished.”
The Redemptive Nature of Work
One of those tough conversations, perhaps the toughest, is the heavy impact of the criminal justice system on young black men, who have left failing schools and found themselves in prison and thus with little hope of meaningful work in the future. Jealous explains, “We have in place a school-to-prison pipeline when we need a school-to-work pipeline.”
He’s not just talking; he’s pursuing solutions: “We’re in the early phase of internal conversations with corporate CEOs about employment barriers to formerly incarcerated people, and I’m very encouraged by their concern about locking people out of work.
“The idea of the redemptive nature of work resonates with them. When we approach them with an open hand, an open heart and a compelling business reason, they respond: ‘Yes, we can help.’” Jealous outlines some very simple changes to start: “If you just take the question about convictions off the application form and save it for the interview, when you’ve already had a chance to get to know the person, then there’s a chance.” These conversations are opening a dialogue and leading to “new and robust partnerships.”
Realizing the Strength of One Nation
The NAACP’s founding vision, drafted by business and community leaders, black and white, was one nation—e pluribus unum. The NAACP has used every available legal and moral strategy to realize that lofty goal, which echoes the vision of our nation’s founders. “We’re much closer to the vision, but we’re not there yet,” reports Jealous. “The good news is that every American knows the contributions of so many who were previously excluded. And more people and more organizations understand you have to commit long-term, join with others to make change happen and then remain vigilant about every gain. We can’t stop—we won’t stop.
“We need to unleash the talent hidden in poor communities,” urges Jealous, “because we can’t afford to overlook the next George Washington Carver.” In fact, America can no longer afford to waste any talent. Standing with the NAACP can eliminate exclusionary practices once and for all. Corporate America can provide the leadership.
For more information, visit www.naacp.org.
Diversity at Prudential
Enhancing our ability to deliver world-class financial services to world-class customers
With $641 billion of assets under management in the United States, Asia, Europe and Latin America, as of September 30, 2009, Prudential Financial is a world leader in financial services and a rock of stability in Newark, New Jersey, its headquarters since its founding more than 130 years ago.
Leadership From the Top
“Our goal is to create an inclusive and productive environment, where employees can bring their whole selves—their best selves—to work,” declares Emilio Egea, vice president and chief diversity officer. This philosophy permeates every level of Prudential’s activities, starting at the top. All executive bonuses depend, in part, on diversity results. And diverse role models are highly visible: One-third of its board of directors and members of the senior management team are women and/or people of color.
Strategic Volunteerism and Giving
Prudential’s outcome-based diversity goals integrate diversity into talent management practices that enhance organizational effectiveness and engage the “head, hand and heart.” For example, more than 100 Prudential employees, including top executives, work outside their comfort zones to get closer to the issues of people different from themselves through strategic placements on not-for-profit boards that benefit the nonprofits, the employees and the company.
Another innovative program is the Community Stewardship Initiative, which provides leadership experience for the members of five Business Resource Groups—employee affinity networks that focus on professional development. Participants collaborate annually to grant $20,000 to a nonprofit organization and develop a volunteer project in support of its mission. To date, the Link Community School in Newark, New Jersey, and the Jersey Explorer Children’s Museum of East Orange, New Jersey, have received the grant along with the support of Prudential volunteers in projects that have increased school funding and strengthened community involvement.
The Prudential Foundation manages a social investment portfolio of $348 million and made $23 million in grants last year. The annual Global Volunteer Day in October clocked 320,000 hours of service with a value of $6.2 million, calculated by the independent Points of Light Foundation.
Prudential provides opportunities for minority-, women- and veteran-owned firms to effectively compete for business through the supplier diversity program. For the past four years, Prudential has invited its suppliers to an annual Diverse Supplier Summit to network and enhance relationships. This year’s summit focused on the economic environment and the impact on business. A keynote speaker and a panel of diverse suppliers shared strategies for dealing with the economic downturn.
Employer of Choice
Prudential’s strong commitment to diversity often leads to prominent placement on many “best companies to work for” lists, including Diversity-Inc, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the Human Rights Campaign, National Association for Female Executives, LATINA Style, Working Mother, Hispanic Business, CAREERS & the disAbled and Computerworld magazines, making it an employer of choice for the best talent.
To learn more about Prudential’s business-driven diversity success, visit www.prudential.com.
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