BALTIMORE (AP) – The NAACP announced a new interim leader on Saturday, along with a nationwide listening tour that will allow it to talk to local members and figure out what the future of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization should be.
Derrick Johnson, the vice-chair of the NAACP board of directors, will serve as interim president and chief executive officer, officials announced at the 108th national convention in Baltimore.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and we won’t waste any time getting to it,” Johnson said.
Johnson, as the new voice of the NAACP, will be one of the faces of the organization’s listening tour around the country. Leon Russell, the NAACP’s national board chairman, said the organization needs to figure out how best to support civil rights workers on the ground in communities who are working on issues like police brutality, the upcoming census, redistricting and voter suppression.
Talking with local members will help them figure out how to “address the issues and challenges that face African-Americans and our communities,” Russell said.
The first stop on the listening tour will be in Detroit on Aug. 24, followed by San Antonio, Texas in September, officials said.
The tour should “expand our reach, touch our people, engage more diverse audiences and reinforce our focus on civil rights in this age of great political and social uncertainty,” Johnson said.
The NAACP has in recent years been overshadowed at street-level advocacy by groups like Black Lives Matter as nationwide concern increased over the deaths of black men, women and children at the hands of the police.
Russell said the NAACP has coexisted during the civil rights movement with younger groups like the Congress of Racial Equality, while Johnson pointed out that all of the organizations today are working toward the same goals.
“In fact, many of the young people who are in the ranks of those organizations come out of the ranks of the NAACP. It’s not a competition,” Johnson said.
The NAACP parted ways with its president and CEO Cornell William Brooks in May. Russell said they hoped to have a new president in place by the end of the year but the board is not rushing the process.
“We’re going to sit down and really be intentional on how we do this, where we look and how we look,” Russell said.
President Donald Trump declined an invitation to speak at the annual convention. Trump also did not speak to the NAACP convention last year, citing scheduling conflicts with the Republican National Convention.
The NAACP convention will wrap up on Wednesday.