Editor’s note: During the upcoming 74th Annual NC NAACP Convention in Raleigh, current president, Dr. William Barber will be stepping down after 12 years, and a new president will be elected. The new president will be either The Reverend Dr. Portia Rochelle, President of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP Chapter, or 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 elected to lead. For a final question, they were asked to determine what relevant thing they would want rank-and-file NCNAACP members to further know about them.
When necessary, both candidates’ answers have been truncated for conciseness.
Today we begin with The Reverend Dr. Portia Rochelle. Next week, we will highlight The Reverend Dr. T. Anthony Spearman.
She celebrated her 65th birthday on Sept. 5, 2017, but, as far as Rev. Dr. Portia Rochelle, President of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP is concerned, she has plenty of fire and commitment in her to lead the over one hundred branches of the NC NAACP as its next president, if elected. She’s working hard to make that happen. Having served as branch president for the past nine years, and having worked for North Carolina State Government for the previous 30, Rev. Rochelle says she’s fully prepared to lead North Carolina’s most prominent civil rights organization.
A widow since 1993, Rev. Rochelle has two children.
Why should you be elected as the next president to lead the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP?
“Because of the firsthand experience that I have had in working with the [Raleigh-Apex] branch here in Wake County. We’ve had to tackle numerous issues, and we are at the forefront of most issues that occur here in North Carolina, whether we desire to be or not. The general public calls on us, and that has given me a vast amount of experience as far as working through civil rights issues with the community [is concerned], and the people injustices are being done to. I’ve had nine years of experience, and I feel that I can do it on the state level.”
What do you think of Dr. William Barber’s leadership of the NCNAACP over the past 12 years, and, if elected, how do you intend to build on it?
“He’s set a great example. Bishop Barber is a teacher. He is one that has a vision, makes sure that you understand that vision and your place, your role and your value in making the vision come forth. So I believe that whoever succeeds …follows that role model, will do great.”
“Some people are kind of shy as far as doing what they should be doing at the branch level, and I think that, if we keep that model that he has set, to teach others, to let them know that they’re valuable in the movement, that they’re necessary in the movement…we need key players in the movement. Everyone needs to be able to a justice movement. Bishop Barber has set a good example of that, and I plan to build on that, build on the infrastructure. There are some branches that need more training. They don’t always have the opportunity to come to the State Convention or attend the National, but I’ve been fortunate enough to be exposed to all of the training at all of the levels.
Plus, quality time with Dr. Barber, with him teaching me, and him answering all sorts of questions that I had when I first started. So the next successor has to be patient and be willing to teach those that are prepared to lead this organization.
As NCNAACP president, how will you continue the fight for voting rights?
“We should never stop. It’s been a continuous fight and does get frustrating for the citizens we are working with, but in the movement we cannot get tired. We cannot get frustrated. We must continue to encourage our people to not keep silent and to not stay home and get mad because they don’t like the way elections are finished.”
“If you’re mad, fight back. How do you fight back? Become informed voters. Teach your family, your neighbors, how to become informed voters. Know what you’re voting on; know the issues; know the people that we’re voting for; know what they stand for. Don’t just wait and show up on voting days for someone to give you a list, and you go in and mark those names. Know who’s running. Know what they have to say about issues that are affecting your life.”
“So voter education is what I’ll be concentrating on, teaching our people to learn … You know, it’s more than just marking a ballot.”
How will you work to get more young people involved in the NCNAACP?
“That’s a good question because I’m dealing with that now. Many of the young people are raising families. Many of them are feeling that the NAACP is irrelevant. So we have to constantly teach them the history and how the NAACP is relevant to them.”
“Some say we’re outdated, that we’re not functioning, but they don’t know what we’re doing. They need to take time to get to know us. Let us introduce ourselves to you, so you’ll know what we’re about, how we got started, and what we’re doing. We’re doing more than marching and protesting because we don’t like a particular law. That’s very important to do, but you have to fight back by showing up at meetings and knowing what’s going in your community.”
“I plan to do a social justice school to teach people how to be involved in the social justices issues in our community. I plan to do the same thing with churches. We need to have people in place where community meetings are going on – the school board, Board of Elections, county commissioners. All of these things affect our lives, and if we’re not there to give our input, then we’re going to be left out, and it’s going to be too late. So we have to get involved. That’s what I want to teach the millennials. You have to get involved! You can’t just sit back and pass judgment and say that our rules are too stringent, or we take too long to do something. You’ve got to understand that we don’t just run and jump and do something. You’ve got to learn not to just jump out there and be ignorant. You have to investigate. Then see if you need to make a stand. See if you need to make a statement, and you’ve got to learn how to be patient. Learn the importance of strategy and why that strategy is there to protect you and the community.”
Next week, we will publish our interview with NCNAACP presidential candidate, The Reverend Dr. T. Anthony Spearman.