AN EXCLUSIVE: Justice Coalition raises serious questions about NAACP head
By Cash Michaels
If there is one thing Rev. Dr. Cardes H. Brown Jr., Lifetime member of the NAACP, wants everyone to be sure of is, neither he nor any of 50-plus member NAACP Justice Coalition have any interest in destroying or tarnishing “the oldest, boldest and most feared” civil rights organization in the nation.
But Dr. Brown insists that the current administrative leadership of the organization he gave his life and soul to many years ago are the ones set to destroy it, and its purpose, unless those who know and care stand up to them and their alleged questionable deeds.
He points the finger squarely at NAACP Pres/CEO Derrick Johnson, who took over leadership in 2017, outgoing Board Chair Leon Russell, and Tennessee NAACP Pres, and Board member Gloria Sweetlove.
And if anyone questions his allegations, Dr. Brown also points that same finger to the NAACP Justice Coalition website (https://naacpjusticecoalition.org), which features a breakdown of their initial Article 10 complaint after the questionable Oct 23rd, 2021, Executive Committee elections that saw incumbent NC NAACP Pres. Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman lose to challenger Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the New Hanover County NAACP Chapter, along with other incumbent officers.
The NAACP Justice Coalition maintains that the entire election process was flawed and improperly managed by Administrator Sweetlove contrary to the NAACP Constitution and Bylaws. The coalition has demanded that the election be held again per the bylaws, but Johnson has dismissed their complaint, and suspended all NAACP Justice Coalition members, including Rev. Spearman and Dr. Brown.
Rev. Spearman, in turn, has indicated his intention to sue the national NAACP office, if not Derrick Johnson and others specifically.
During the course of this entire controversy, the coalition has uncovered what it says is documented evidence that raises questions about Johnson’s direction and leadership. For example, in March 2019, in documents uncovered by the coalition and independently verified by this reporter, Derrick Johnson had the name of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) legally changed to NAACP Empowerment Programs Inc., also changing the federal tax status of the NAACP from 501(c)3 to 501(c)4.
The NAACP Empowerment Programs, Inc. is now the 501(3)-tax deductible corporation. Both are still nonprofits, but there’s no tax deduction if you donate to the NAACP or any of its branches.
The question is why? What was so special about 2019 that this change had to happen?
One clue is that as a 501(c)4, the NAACP shares the same “social welfare organization” IRS designation as right-wing politically oriented nonprofit groups, like Club for Growth and Americans for Prosperity that routinely produce campaign advertising against liberal candidates for office.
The NAACP can now to the same thing against any candidates it chooses.
According to a November 27, 2018, article in The Atlantic Magazine titled, The Tax-Code Shift That’s Changing Liberal Activism, “nonprofit groups that used to focus their energies on litigation and education are increasingly structuring themselves to be political players [too].”
The Atlantic reported, “…long-standing civil-liberties and civil-rights groups are reallocating resources to (c)(4) arms. In fiscal year 2017, for example, total assets of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (c)(3) grew 17 percent. Total assets of its (c)(4), on the other hand, grew 89 percent. This past June, the Southern Poverty Law Center spun off a (c)(4), the SPLC Action Fund. The NAACP went further and transformed itself entirely last year from a 501(c)(3) into a 501(c)(4). This restructuring was necessary, the incoming president (Derrick Johnson) explained, for the NAACP to “have the collective voice and impact that a civil-rights organization in 2017 and forward should have.”
Reportedly, the NAACP Empowerment Programs, Inc. is among the many social justice groups to receive tens of millions of the billions of dollars donated by Corporate America and Wall Street in the aftermath of George Floyd’s police murder. It can be speculated how much of those tens of millions were shifted over to or from its tax-exempt counterpart.
For instance, evidence was found of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation granting $75,000 in August 2021 to the NAACP Empowerment Programs, Inc., “to support the adoption of an equitable funding formula and encourage the development of statewide exemplars in data systems to improve educational opportunities for K-12 students in Tennessee., said the Gates Foundation website.
As indicated before, Gloria Sweetlove is the Tennessee NAACP Conference president.
A financial statement 2020 for NAACP Empowerment Programs, Inc. 501(c)3 total assets in 2020 was $60.3 million, as opposed to just $19.5 million in 2019.
Total assets for the 501(c)4 NAACP in 2020 was $21.9 million (with over $1.9 million “due from Empowerment Programs).
As said, that is one clue. Another could be the Jasymine Childs case in 2017, where the former Youth Director of the NC Director of the NC NAACP alleged that she was sexually harassed by then supervisor Rev Curtis Gatewood.
After an internal investigation confirmed her allegations, the national office under Johnson allegedly did nothing for two years because it had no sexual harassment policy. In February 2020, Childs filed a $15 million lawsuit in Durham Superior Court against the NAACP, later amended to a $20 million suit when Johnson was added on for allegedly publicly lambasting Childs at the 2019 NC NAACP convention in Winston-Salem.
Johnson has not been available for comment, but the fact remains, many rank-and-file NAACP members have no idea that there are two parent incorporated organizations to which their membership dues are partially going to.
A branch membership table shows “a portion of your membership dues is passed on to the NAACP National organization and these payments are tax deductible.”
So per a regular annual $30.00 NAACP adult membership, $11.85 is tax deductible, and goes to the NAACP Empowerment Programs, Inc., while the remainder is not and goes to the NAACP national and the branch.
And what does the NAACP Empowerment Programs, Inc. do?
On the national NAACP website, it says, “Through NAACP Empowerment Programs, our 501(c)3 are, we’re working to build inclusive criminal justice policies, healthcare systems, economies, and classrooms in 2022.”
It continued, “With your support, NAACP Empowerment Programs will continue to lead the charge in fighting back against voter suppression and unfair redistricting; fighting back against the spread of COVID-19 misinformation; Advocating for economic policy to assist Black entrepreneurs and workers; fighting for reimagined policing; holding corporations accountable.”
No one who is committed to social justice can argue with that agenda, but the fact remains, when did NAACP Pres./CEO Derrick Johnson tell the membership that the NAACP they all supported since 1909, the year it was founded, was changing to a new entity, and why? Have many of the millions of dollars in assets of the NAACP 501(c)4 been shifted over to the NAACP Empowerment Programs Inc. 501(c)3, and why?
And were members advised of any or all of this before or as it was happening, and when?
Rev. Dr. Cardes Brown Jr. and the NAACP Justice Coalition want the answer to these questions and more, and they believe that every NAACP member has the right to know as well.