Rev. T. Anthony: Why I should be the next N.C. NAACP president

Rev. T. Anthony: Why I should be the next N.C. NAACP president
September 21
04:00 2017

Editor’s note: During the upcoming 74th annual N.C. NAACP Convention in Raleigh, current president, Bishop Dr. William Barber, will be stepping down after 12 years, and a new president will be elected between Rev. Dr. Portia Rochelle, president of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP Chapter, and Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, Third Vice President of the N.C. NAACP. 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 N.C. NAACP 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 Rev. Dr. Portia Rochelle. Today, we continue with Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman. Next week we talk with outgoing N.C. NAACP President Bishop Dr. William Barber II.

Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman – Third Vice President of the N.C .NAACP, senior pastor of St. Phillip A.M.E. Zion Church in Greensboro and president of the N.C. Council of Churches – has been a member of the NAACP for 53 years. As a young man, his father got memberships for his sisters and him, telling them to keep them up because “you will be fighting for justice for the remainder of your years.”

During that time, Rev. Spearman, 66, has also served as chairman of the N.C. NAACP 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 he’s given most of his life to, and lead it toward further establishing the values and justice he’s sworn to uphold. Rev. 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 in which I’m glad I have cast my energies toward. I have been a staunch supporter of the Forward Together/Moral Monday movement, and 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 N.C. NAACP 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 that 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 N.C. NAACP 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 12 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 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 receives 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 [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] 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 N.C. NAACP 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.:

“1. 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.

“2. Inspecting the root cause of poverty – The N.C. NAACP 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 strategize 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.

“3. 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 N.C. NAACP?

“I have developed two nonprofits – one I established back in 2006 when I was pastoring in Hickory, N.C. 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 immerse them in higher education … and came away from that experience with these young men now thinking about going to college, as opposed to 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, use 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 N.C. NAACP. I’ve been working on ways to be able to present them with something we can 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, Bishop Dr. William J. Barber II, president of the N.C. NAACP, exclusively looks back over his 12-year tenure as he prepares to step down.


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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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