My friend Ben Jealous, CEO of the NAACP, is resigning his position effective December 2013 citing personal family reasons. As a father of small children having to spend days and weeks of not being able to talk, touch and play with them during their developmental years takes its toll. Those formative years are the most important in a child’s life with mother and father raising them together.
I know this because I have been where Ben is now. I had the opportunity to uproot my family for the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles where I would spend countless hours stuck in an office in Hollywood, on the road throughout Southern California, and in the air to Oakland. Our kids were small at the time with one not yet born.
My wife and I evaluated our situation and decided that our family would be better served in the four bedroom home, with swimming pool, central air & heat, surrounded by people we knew from childhood and a community we loved. I took a promotion with the company but remained in San Bernardino where I came home every night.
Now Ben took the job at 35-years of age when there were no children involved with his decision. Now at 40 and two children later he and wife, Lea Epperson, a civil rights lawyer with her own career, his priorities have shifted. I, for one, applaud Ben for his decision.
I have known Ben since the 90’s when both of us were involved with the National Newspapers Publishers Association, he as staff and I as first vice president of the board of directors placed with some responsibility of staff and conventions. Ben impressed me with his knowledge of our struggle as Black owners of newspapers and citizens in America.
Ben is a Rhodes Scholar and it was clear to me he was skilled at grasping grand ideas and dissecting them into clear statements for communicating them to people.
I know the stress a position like CEO of the NAACP can have on a person because at any moment a Trayvon Martin shooting, a moral Monday demonstration in North Carolina, voting rights issues in any state, interviews on television, radio or newspaper could happen at any time or place in America with his presence being requested, not to mention supervising a staff and raising money for the organization.
Ben is leaving the organization with a good staff and much more money than when he started. The donors have grown from 16,000 to 133,000 with annual revenues up from $25 million to $46 million a year. The NAACP has a high tech operation for getting voters engaged in the political process that helped contribute to higher Black voter turnout.
I wish Ben much success in his endeavors as he strives to raise a family while navigating his career to provide for them.