Monday, December 25, 2000

Q&A: Norma Holt Davis

        When Norma Holt Davis assumes the presidency of the Cincinnati branch of the NAACP Jan. 1, she will succeed influential community leader Dr. Milton Hinton, who is retiring after leading the branch since 1994. In an interview with Enquirer reporter Allen Howard, Mrs. Davis addressed a variety of topics:

        QUESTION: Do you think you will face pressure by being only the second woman to head the local branch?

        ANSWER: I don't think so. There have been plenty of women, serving as first, second and third vice presidents, and many of the committees are chaired by women. Mrs. (Marian) Spencer was president almost 20 years ago. I don't think she had any problems.

        Q: How effective is the NAACP as a civil rights organization and how does it relate to other organizations?

        A: (The NAACP) is both effective in getting issues before the public and in fighting them through litigation. We take on issues, even picketing the Enquirer about a story we felt treated blacks unfairly. And we are constantly pushing for better education. The chapter was very active in supporting the (Cincinnati) school levy, which passed. We realize there is a turf war among organizations. But our mission is clearly defined. We fight for civil rights.

        Q: Does the NAACP relate to young people?

        A: We have active participation on college campuses but we are not reaching many of the young black adults. I think it is because they don't take the time to learn what the organization is about. Part of my agenda will be to reach that group and make sure they understand how the organization is structured.

        Q: How is the organization structured?

        A: There are 24 people elected to two-year terms on the NAACP executive committee, often referred to as the board of directors. Others may be appointed by the president to serve on the committee. The branch is composed of different committees that handle specific complaints, such as legal redress, which handles legal issues, or the labor and industry committee, which handles employment complaints. We have an education committee that took an active role in getting the (Cincinnati) school levy passed.

        Q: Is the name of the organization outdated? Are people turned off with the name, National Association for the Advancement of “Colored” People?         A: It shouldn't offend anybody because it simply says that we are fighting for the civil rights of people of color. And that can mean any color because it is all-inclusive. The name shouldn't be changed because it represents the work of such great civil rights leaders as Roy Wilkins and Thurgood Marshall, and on and on. To change the name would be changing history.

        Q: Do whites see the organization as all inclusive?

        A: No.

        Q: Should they?

        A: Yes. There are many whites on the board, and have been over the years. They see that this is an organization fighting for civil rights for everybody.

        Q: In the local NAACP chapter election, you won on a slate that was unopposed. Several people complained that the election procedure was not clear. Is it clear and is it fair?

        A: The election laws are explained in the constitution. Anybody seeking an office can easily find that out. Some of the people complained that they were not interviewed after they submitted a letter expressing their interest. The constitution doesn't say the candidates are supposed to be interviewed. I wasn't interviewed. I am satisfied with the procedure and I think it is clear and fair.

        Q: If you could take this branch and achieve one thing, what would be most important to you?

        A: To make African-Americans feel empowered. Once you feel empowered you are less likely to be mistreated. I would like for (the NAACP) to be put out of business. The only way that can happen is that African-Americans feel empowered.

        Q: How close are we to that?

        A: Not very close. You and I will not see it in our lifetime.


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