Questions raised about the leadership of N.C. NAACP Pres. Deborah MaxwellBy Cash Michaels, Peacemaker Senior Contributor / March 16, 2023
When Deborah Dicks Maxwell, president of the North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, won her controversial election over incumbent President Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman in October 2021, she subsequently told The Raleigh News and Observer, “The power of the NAACP does not reside in the state office; it resides in the power of all those local presidents and branches throughout the state.”While many might agree that local branches should be front and center in carrying the social justice banner, others have argued that strong leadership from Pres. Maxwell and the N.C. NAACP on important social justice issues since she was elected has been lacking, and if anything, the noteworthy accomplishments that made the North Carolina conference one of the most powerful and productive in the nation from 2005-2021 under the leadership of Rev. Dr. William Barber and his successor, the late Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, have been lost.
Witness this email provided by sources titled, “N.C. Concerns and Impotency of the N.C. NAACP” from Pasquotank County NAACP Pres. Keith Rivers regarding Maxwell’s alleged lack of involvement in the aftermath of the Sheriff’s Dept. April 21, 2021 killing of Elizabeth City resident Andrew Brown Jr.
“The Pasquotank Branch of the NAACP…accomplished implementing a Sheriff’s Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) with NO assistance from the state conference or President Maxwell,” wrote Rivers in a Feb. 18, 2023 email to the national NAACP Board and others.
“At the same time, other branches across the state, like Statesville, traveled five hours to march and protest with us. We protested for 382 days, and at NO time did President Maxwell join us in Elizabeth City or provide assistance as the state conference president. Furthermore, we have legislation drafted to give the CAC investigative authority, again, NO state involvement.”
Rivers continued, “President Maxwell implied that the state conference under her leadership was working with the Pasquotank Branch to continue in the Fight for Justice of Andrew Brown Jr.; flat-out untrue…with all the new oppressive legislation attempting to be passed in N.C. and Moore v. Harper at the Supreme Court, President Maxwell painted a false picture as she and (state Executive Director) Daquan Love do so often. The lack of integrity in her remarks is a slap in the face to those on the front line and directly reflects what goes on in N.C. State Conference. Lies and Half-truths.”
This newspaper has spoken with several members and former members of the N.C. NAACP, and one common theme all have hit upon is that leadership from the state conference is sorely lacking. They warn that with Republicans intent on eliminating any semblance of teaching the true racial history of North Carolina or the nation, and a Black Republican lt. governor, who has become the mouthpiece for the conservative power structure in this state, this is not the time for President Deborah Maxwell to be anything but ever vigilant, and a strong advocate who can be counted on.
Research shows that now, with eight months left to her two-year term, and seven months from the next scheduled state conference election, Pres. Maxwell has amassed anything but an impressive record.
- Since the Wilmington native took office, no less than six longtime N.C. NAACP members since January of 2022 have been suspended from their memberships, with five losing the important offices that they held. At least half claim they never received an official letter from the national NAACP office officially informing them of their suspensions, or the reasons for them.
- Black voter participation in the 2022 midterm elections decreased, resulting in former N.C. Chief Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley losing her bid to become the first African American woman elected as U.S. Senator from North Carolina. The N.C. NAACP’s statewide get-out-the-vote/voter registration campaign under Maxwell’s leadership was nonexistent.
- 2022 has come and gone, and 2023 is well underway, and there have been none of the momentous coalition-building marches or rallies centered around important social justice issues like criminal justice reform or affordable housing led by the N.C. NAACP. Pres. Maxwell has rarely made a public appearance in connection with an issue of Black community concern, or rarely issued a public statement on behalf of the N.C. NAACP when the Republican-led N.C. General Assembly was advancing public policy that was contrary to the interests of the African American community statewide.
Love, a political consultant from Virginia, was hired by N.C. NAACP Administrator Gloria Sweetlove and Maxwell in August 2022 at a salary of $5,000 per month.
In an email provided by sources, Rev. Mack complained that Love “b…lames everyone when things go wrong but never takes accountability for his ineffectiveness.”
“At the November 22nd meeting, a motion was passed for us all to meet to resolve issues in our leadership,” wrote Rev. Mack to N.C. NAACP Executive Committee members on November 29th, 2022. “I agree with Treasurer [Gerald] Givens; several concerns arose concerning Mr. Love that the elected leadership must discuss amongst ourselves.”
Rev. Mack continued, “More importantly, President Maxwell has cancelled several meetings with the vice presidents and has not convened with the vice presidents, treasurer and secretary at all since gaining office.”
“As an executive committee, it would be tremendously helpful for us to forge a path forward ourselves.”
“Leadership matters!” Rev. Mack continued. “If the President can’t chair a meeting with the leadership without Mr. Love’s presence, we have a bigger problem.”
“We are not children, frankly. I am willing to meet with Deborah Maxwell and the officers to move forward with a real plan for this state conference. I have requested such a meeting from day one to no avail,” Rev. Mack concluded.
It also doesn’t help that Mr. Love’s previous NAACP leadership experience was 14 allegedly tumultuous months as executive director of the Virginia NAACP conference since 2020. According to the Richmond Free Press, Love “abruptly quit after 14 months,” leaving behind “…a blistering resignation letter accusing members of the state NAACP board of creating overly stressful conditions that were ruining his health.”
Rev. Mack was not pleased with Love’s performance in how last year’s N.C. NAACP State Convention in Fayetteville was conducted.
“We spent $60,000 for a one day N.C. State convention of which $30,000 was reimbursed to Mr. Love,” Rev. Mack wrote. “He stayed at the Embassy Suites with his mother, family and staff from his company.
“We were slotted to stay at the motel that literally had roaches crawling at our convention. Quite an expensive roach motel! Less than one hundred people attended and only sixty-seven were eligible delegates.”
Rev. Mack sarcastically continued, “I want to make you aware of the N.C. legislative agenda that will make our state the model for the new Jim Crow. But there has been No response from this leadership.”
What Maxwell, the first woman elected as N.C. NAACP president, told The News and Observer she wanted to accomplish while in office was to advocate for redistricting be a fairer process; strengthening NAACP branches across the state; and encouraging North Carolinians to “participate in the policymaking process.”
Again, Pres. Maxwell’s critics note, there’s little evidence of any of that happening on her watch. And yet, with state conference executive elections just around the corner, N.C. NAACP members may find it difficult to replace Maxwell with more dynamic leadership.
Thanks to an administrator none of them asked for, and sorely would love to get rid of.
N.C. NAACP Deborah Maxwell and Executive Director Da’Quan Love were asked for a comment for this story, but neither responded by press time.