Editor’s note: During the upcoming 74th Annual NCNAACP Convention in Raleigh, current president, Dr. William Barber will be stepping down after 12 years, and a new president will be elected between The Reverend Dr. Portia Rochelle, President of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP Chapter and The Reverend Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, Third Vice President of the NCNAACP.
During separate interviews, both candidates were asked the same six questions about their respective visions for the State Conference if either is elected to lead. For a final question, they were asked to determine what they want rank and file NCNAACP members to further know about them that they feel is relevant.
When necessary, both candidates’ answers have been truncated for conciseness.
Last week we interviewed The Reverend Dr. Portia Rochelle. Today, we continue with The Reverend Dr. T. Anthony Spearman. Next week we talk with outgoing NCNAACP President Dr. William Barber, II.
The Reverend Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, Third Vice President of the NC NAACP; Senior Pastor, St. Phillip AMEZ Church in Greensboro; President, NC Council of Churches, has been a member of the NAACP for 53 years. As a young man, his father got memberships for him and his sisters, telling them to keep them up because “you will be fighting for justice for the remainder of your years.”
During that time, The Reverend Spearman, 66, has also served as Chairman of the NCNAACP Religious Affairs Committee and President of the Hickory Branch of the NAACP.
Now he says it’s time to vie for the presidency of the civil rights organization to which he’s given most of his life and lead it toward further establishing the values and justice he’s sworn to uphold. The Reverend Spearman is married with three adult children, five grandchildren, and one great grandchild.
Why should you be elected as the next president to lead the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP?
“I find the NAACP continues to be a very relevant organization toward which I’m glad I have cast my energies. I have been a staunch supporter of the Forward Together/Moral Monday movement and was the second arrestee of the [first] Moral Monday. I’ve been involved in civil disobedience on three separate occasions, and so I’m very invested in the NCNAACP and the work thereof, and I’ve seen a great deal of merit in the work of Dr. William J. Barber, II, and want to see this movement continue what has been started over the course of the 12 years that he [has] served in leadership.”
What do you think of Bishop Dr. William Barber’s leadership of the NCNAACP over the past 12 years, and, if elected, how do you intend to build on it?
“I’ve been very much a part of Bishop Barber’s leadership during that time, and it began with the HK on J Movement…I was there at the inception of that, and then as it kind of grew into the Forward Together/Moral Monday Movement, I was very much a part of that movement. Candidly, Dr. Barber and I have become very collegial and have really held one another up in many of the things that have come before us as the twelve years have unfolded.”
“My ideology is very, very similar to the ideology of Bishop Barber and what the NAACP lifts up as what they call “game-changers,” I lift [it] up as a five-point justice vision. When we talk about pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that ensure economic sustainability and educational equality that ensures that every child receive an appropriate education and health care and fairness in the criminal justice system and protection of all kinds of rights – voting rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights…all of those are right at the cutting edge of the things I would think we need to continue in terms of having the kind of ideology that’s going to help us to make some ground so that we can continue to move forward together and not take one step back.”
As NCNAACP president, how will you continue the fight for voting rights?
“One of the things that has been in the forefront of my mind is how to frame doing what I hope to achieve once I’m elected, should I be elected. I’ve been kind of obsessed with the thought of what I call a transforming and understanding of “R.I.P.” which is the acronym we generally use for “rest in peace.””
“I’m plagued with why do we wait until someone dies to say or think that we want them now to rest in peace. So I’ve been toying with the idea of how do we transform our understanding of R.I.P. and help to translate it from a death wish to a justice gift.”
“Three of the points that I am very, very bent on achieving or working on as we do the work come forth with the acronym R.I.P. :
- Respecting our vote–everything we face as a people is predicated on the right to place ballots in the ballot box. Like watchmen on the wall, we have to continue to be vigilant and make sure that we hold back all that the [NC] General Assembly seeks to do to continue to suppress our vote, and I genuinely believe that they will continue to throw forth some monkey wrenches to do just that.
- Inspecting the root cause of poverty– The NCNAACP went around the State in 2011-2012, putting a face on poverty. For me, that was the cutting edge of what we need to do. You’ll recall that, during the 2016 elections, there was no talk, no conversation, no debate whatsoever about poverty, no talk about racism, and I believe that we, as a people, must be very intentional about talking about poverty, bringing it onto the radar, and then keeping it on the radar so that people are talking about it, and, if no one else is talking about it, then we need to be talking about it as a people and strategizing on how we are going to be dealing with it to make sure that others understand how important it is to us as a people.
- Protecting our youth– We’re dealing with the militarization that Dr. King has always talked about and always have in the forefronts of our minds the things that this so-called democracy is supposed to stand for.
How will you work to get more young people involved in the NCNAACP?
“I have developed two nonprofits – one I established back in 2006 when I was pastoring in Hickory, NC. Now we’re doing business here in Greensboro as “The B.R.I.D.G.E. Program” which is “balancing relationships, instilling dignity, growth and empathy.” The formation of that nonprofit happened while I was the Education Chair of the Hickory Branch of the NAACP, and a teacher contacted us about five African-American students who were failing. I built a program around these young men – Students Moving A Step Ahead – and took them to Detroit, Michigan for a weekend and immersed them in higher education…and came away from that experience with these young men now thinking about going to college, as opposed to [the fact that] prior to that, they didn’t think about it at all.”
“There were some successes that were done, and we did that for about three years, but I came to terms with the fact that it seemed to me to be a little too late. So I started another program,…and we were able to partner with the Hickory Housing Unit, used this curriculum, and had some major successes on gathering young people together, giving them some cultural awareness, and helping them develop a love for their culture. By leaps and bounds, there were improvements in their lives.”
“I would use that same kind of practice in trying to get young people involved in the NCNAACP. I’ve been working on ways to be able to present them with something we can [use to] intergenerationally involve these young people. The Scriptures tell us we are to impress upon the children, spend time with the children. We’re going to make sure that we interact with the children on a 24/7 basis. Thereby, we will not be afraid of our children. I think the fear that we have in engaging with our children prevents us from keeping the children around us.
Next week, Dr. William J. Barber, II, President of the NCNAACP, exclusively looks back over his 12-year tenure as he prepares to step down.