The president of the Mississippi State Conference NAACP and vice chairman of the NAACP national board of directors, Derrick Johnson, will serve as interim president and CEO until a permanent new president is appointed.
Johnson will guide the nation’s oldest civil rights organization through “a period of re-envisioning and reinvigoration” until a new president is selected, the organization said in a press release announcing the appointment. The unanimous decision by the executive committee of the board of directors came on Saturday during the NAACP’s 108th annual convention in Baltimore, Md.
Johnson, who will serve as the NAACP’s primary spokesperson, succeeds Cornell William Brooks, who was president for the past three years but did not have his contract renewed when it expired June 30. Johnson has been leading the organization in the interim along with Chairman Leon W. Russell.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and we won’t waste any time getting to it,” Johnson said in a press release. “We are facing unprecedented threats to our democracy and we will not be sidelined while our rights are being eroded every day. We remain steadfast and immovable, and stand ready on the front lines of the fight for justice,” he said.
At its annual convention at the Baltimore Convention Center, the organization launched “NAACP Forward,” a national listening tour that’s part of its strategic plan for the future. Among its goals is to enhance the NAACP’s vision, mission and commitment to civil rights “amid a climate of political hostility, voter suppression, income inequality, mass incarceration, police, brutality and anti-immigrant sentiment.”
After listening sessions with current NAACP branch state presidents and leadership from rural and urban communities, “NAACP Forward” will have its first official stop on Aug. 24 in Detroit, Mich., for local membership, supporters and partners. The tour will continue with a session in San Antonio, Texas, in September with NAACP leadership visiting seven major cities over the next few months. Details for each tour stop will be released in the coming weeks.
“NAACP Forward” also will include smaller discussions in visits to the tour cities to gain the perspective of membership, local community leaders, activists, and others.
A Mississippi native, Johnson attended Tougaloo College in Jackson, Miss., where he now serves as an adjunct professor. He received his law degree from the South Texas College of Law and is an annual guest lecturer at Harvard Law School for a course on social movements. He also has served fellowships with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, George Washington University School of Political Management, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.