NAACP Secret Meeting Threatens Civil Rights Legacy in San Diego

The National NAACP removed the local San Diego Branch President, Francine Maxwell, from office in a letter last week that said she had refused to cooperate with the Nationally appointed “Administrator” who has taken over the San Diego Branch. They also suspended her Life Membership.When the NAACP San Diego Branch called for a closed door “executive session” meeting on December 21st, the outcry was immediate. Members of the NAACP started asking, “Why is this meeting closed?” The answer, apparently from Alphonso Braggs, the National NAACP Administrator who is now in charge of the San Diego Branch was,  "This planned for Executive Session only, due to ‘personnel issues’ on the agenda." 

The problem with this explanation is that the San Diego Branch does not have any personnel. 

Complaints on social media apparently caused the NAACP San Diego Branch to correct this error with an email to the members that said,

“The original announcement indicated the whole meeting would be in Executive Session.  That was an error; only the appointment of the Secretary will occur in Executive Session.  The rest of the meeting will be open to the public as is our usual practice.”

When the Zoom meeting started, everyone who was not on the San Diego NAACP Executive Committee was placed into the Zoom waiting room while the Executive Committee went into closed Executive Session, we thought, for the single agenda item of getting a new branch Secretary. 

We were on hold for three hours!

After the first two hours, a note popped up in the waiting room that said the open meeting should resume in about thirty minutes. An hour later, the Executive Committee returned, let us into the meeting and announced that the meeting was over and they had covered all of the agenda items. So much for an open meeting.

Apparently, the National NAACP Administrator, Mr. Alphonso Braggs, forced the Executive Committee to go through the entire agenda in closed session, away from the eyes and ears of the NAACP San Diego Branch membership and the public. And, apparently, Mr. Braggs did not think it necessary to let the membership of the NAACP and the members of San Diego’s Black community know that we would be barred from the meeting, while we sat on hold for 3 hours.

This was a special meeting. The NAACP ByLaws for Units states:

Special Meetings may be called on three days written notice to all members by the President, or by any three members of the Executive Committee; or by any ten members of the Unit by signed declaration to the Secretary, who in turn must call the meeting. The notice must state the purpose for which the meeting is called. If  the meeting is to be held via teleconference or electronic meeting, the conference call number or sign in code must be provided. 

Since the NAACP San Diego Branch had no Secretary at the time of the meeting, one wonders how this Special Meeting was scheduled. Apparently, the Administrator has the authority to override the NAACP ByLaws for Units. Mr. Braggs has repeatedly refused to share with the San Diego NAACP any written verification of his authority, when asked by several members of the NAACP, other than to point to the NAACP Constitution and say that the National Board of Director can pretty much do what they want to do. 

Mr. Braggs has also refused to share with the San Diego NAACP membership any written documentation regarding the deliberations and decisions made by the National Board of Directors that caused the San Diego Branch to be put under administration - a process that is not explained in the NAACP Constitution or Bylaws for Units.

When the Executive Committee of the San Diego NAACP returned to the Zoom meeting, after three hours, the new President of the San Diego Branch, Mr. Brian Bonner, did share with the rest of us that the Executive Committee was unable to come to agreement about a number of agenda items, due to the lack of information they have from the National NAACP and their appointed Administrator. 

Of particular interest is the Executive Committee’s decision not to give Mr. Braggs access to the local NAACP branch checking account. According to a recent treasurer’s report the NAACP treasury is more than $200,000. Questions have been raised regarding the National NAACP’s interest in San Diego Branch’s finances. However, Mr. Braggs has repeatedly stated that the San Diego NAACP’s finances are in good order.

The predictable next step is for the National NAACP to completely take over the local branch, including its bank accounts.

As the local branch of the NAACP has been run by local community members who have been in San Diego for generations and are highly respected, it seems the onus is on the National NAACP to explain to the San Diego civil rights community why they have intervened in the affairs of the local NAACP and what they hope to achieve by upending the work of this legacy civil rights organization that has served San Diego for 102 years. 

The National NAACP has now removed two local presidents in a row, including the author of this article, and suspended our Life Memberships. They have not refunded any of the membership fees we have lost as a result of our suspensions. They have never explained to me, the San Diego NAACP, the San Diego community or the media who have contacted them, why I was suspended or why they have taken over the San Diego NAACP. It is time for the National NAACP to answer for their actions.

Clovis Honoré
Social Justice Editor
Indian Voices Newspaper
Past President, NAACP San Diego Branch