The former longtime president of the NC NAACP has issued a statement saying that he “stands” with the “integrity-filled women elders” of the state chapter of the nation’s oldest civil rights movement in their demand to have a member accused of sexual harassment removed from the organization.
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, currently the co-chair of The Poor People’s Campaign, issued his statement after the “Elder Women of the North Carolina NAACP” held a press conference Sept. 18 at Trinity AME Zion Church in Greensboro and vowed that “…we can no longer stand in the shadows,” noting that many of them have been victims of past sexual harassment themselves.
Allegedly, two years ago, an unnamed supervisor in the NC NAACP office was accused of sexual harassment by a young female field organizer. Rev. Barber, who was president at the time, had the accusation fully investigated by an employment attorney and law professor, and, after a five month probe, confirmed it. The supervisor then resigned his position.
According to national NAACP bylaws, only the national NAACP can formally and legally remove an NAACP member for cause, but the Elder Women say the national office never did, even though all internal efforts were being exhausted.
Having the former supervisor still attend various NC NAACP events as a member was disturbing to the alleged victim and those who supported her, the elders said. They petitioned Derrick Johnson, president/CEO of the national NAACP, to remove the member. However, thus far, nothing has happened.
“I agree with these women,” Rev. Barber said in his statement released Friday. I support their efforts and their unwavering call for action. This has gone on too long, and, if those who have power to act do so, we will be stronger because of their call to action.”
Reportedly, while the NC NAACP has a policy against sexual harassment, the national NAACP does not, even though, as an organization, it pushed Congress in 2018 to pass legislation outlawing the practice in the workplace.
Several of the Women Elders at the Greensboro press conference, including O’Linda Watkins-McSurely, president of the Moore County NAACP, Anna Richards, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, and Ana Blackburn, of the State NAACP, said that, if they don’t see resolution of the situation soon, in addition to a new policy addressing sexual harassment from the national NAACP, they will organize a bus trip to the Baltimore headquarters, and hold a press conference there to ratchet up pressure.
“What we know is that we can no longer stand in the shadows,” said NC NAACP board member, Rev. Toneyla Rawls, of Charlotte.
Rev. Barber, though he is a former president of the NC NAACP, is still a member of the national NAACP Board of Directors.
“As a member of the National Board,” he said in his Friday statement, “I intend to stand with this call and work with these powerful women, representing some of North Carolina’s finest leaders…”