By Jeffrey L. Boney
Now that the dust has settled and the NAACP Houston Branch elections are over, let’s take a look at the results from these hotly contested races that involved allegations of corruption, nasty campaigning and personal attacks.
Out of the eight officer positions that were on the ballot, only three of them were contested.
As announced by Roger Harris, chairman of the Houston Branch’s election supervisory committee at the monthly membership meeting on November 15th, all executive committee candidates were elected and these were the final results.
In the race for President, incumbent NAACP President, Dr. James Douglas, defeated challenger Lloyd C. Ford. Douglas, who has been President since 2015, won convincingly, receiving 236 votes to Ford’s 101 votes. Interestingly enough, there were 371 total votes cast, yet 34 people chose not to even cast a vote for Douglas or Ford in the race for president.
In the two other contested races for NAACP Houston Branch officer positions, CWA Claude Cummings, Jr. (226 votes) beat Eddison Titus (107 votes) for the Office of 1st Vice President, while newcomer Belinda Everette (204 votes) defeated Ciara Suseberry (126 votes) for the position of Secretary.
The winners of the following positions that only had one unopposed candidate in each position were Bishop James Dixon II – 2nd Vice President; Carol Mims Galloway – 3rd Vice President; Carroll Robinson – Treasurer; Carolyn Evans-Shabazz – Assistant Treasurer; and Anthony West – Assistant Secretary.
This NAACP Houston Branch election was unique and unlike any other in recent memory. The city of Houston hasn’t seen this level of mudslinging and drama surrounding individuals seeking to either take over the reins or hold on to their position as the elected officers of a local non-profit organization that pays no money and is strictly volunteer-based.
What made this election so messy was the number of allegations that became a public spectacle which, of course, ended up being plastered all over the local news media.
The trio of Ford, Titus and Suseberry ran an aggressive campaign and definitely caught the attention of the NAACP establishment. They handed out push cards with their slate on it, recruited new members to join, attended community events, made appearances on local television shows, gave interviews to local newspapers, utilized social media and did many other things to gain support. Behind the scenes, however, there was a battle brewing between the establishment of the NAACP Houston Branch and these young millennials who threatened to challenge their leadership that caused them to react to the challenge in a reactionary manner.
Prior to the elections, the NAACP Houston Branch sent out a damning letter to its members discussing legal actions that were taken against Ford, who has been a member of the NAACP Houston Branch for two years. Relative to the lawsuit, the NAACP Houston Branch accused Ford of unlawfully taking control of their website and domain, and moving the domain (www.naacphouston.org) to his personal domain on squarespace.com.
On October 19th, the case was filed with the Harris County Civil Court by Attorney Clyde Lemon, and on October 22nd, Judge Elaine Palmer heard arguments and granted a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to the NAACP Houston Branch. The ruling ordered Ford to immediately relinquish the website and domain, which he ended up doing on October 24th.
In another interesting twist, executives at the NAACP Houston Branch announced that in the early morning hours on November 3rd, a window of the office of the Executive Director, Yolanda Smith, had been shattered and Smith’s main computer had been stolen. A police report was filed and an investigation was launched and is still in progress. Now while there is no evidence that points directly to any individuals, the letter sent out to their membership subtly implies that the NAACP Houston Branch leadership believed it had something to do with those who were seeking to challenge them.
Another bit of drama involved the trio of Ford, Titus and Suseberry secretly recording State Senator Borris Miles, without his knowledge, and releasing the audio recording prior to the elections. On the audio, Miles candidly speaks about his strained relationship with Howard Jefferson and attorney Ben Hall, and he also shares some interesting views about the way the NAACP Houston Branch has ran the organization over the past several decades. Despite the banter by Miles, the audio was not a “smoking gun” and did not provide any realistic proof of the allegations that had been lodged against the NAACP Houston Branch of possible corruption.
All in all, this was an extremely spirited and contentious election that brought out a high number of existing and new members, and catapulted the NAACP Houston Branch into the public eye once again – even if this was not the level of attention they were hoping to get.
The NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. It was founded in 1909, and today this organization continues to fight for social justice for all Americans. There is no question that with the level of vitriol, racism, voter suppression, criminal justice issues and civil rights challenges, an organization like the NAACP is needed more now than ever before.
If the NAACP Houston Branch members, including those who challenged the establishment and fell short, are not engaged after this contentious and controversial election, then it will be business as usual and the city of Houston will more than likely be a witness to the same shenanigans the next time. Time will tell.
This article originally appeared in the Houston Forward Times.