Geraldine Washington, president of the Los Angeles branch of the NAACP for the past 12 years, has stepped down from the position effective January 2009.
Washington has been replaced by former Detroit, Mich. district court judge and NAACP first vice president Leon Jenkins effective Jan. 1st.
“It’s a new generation coming up and we’re excited,” said Washington. “I think Mr. Jenkins will be a superb president. He has good credentials.” Washington said that stepping down is bittersweet, but that she has many fond memories of working with the local NAACP branch. “I’m proud of the tenure I had at the NAACP and of the years I had leading the branch,” she acknowledged. “In order for us to continue to have a strong chapter, everybody is expected to work together and I know we will.”
“I look forward to revitalizing the image and the prestige that the NAACP has and continuing our fight for civil rights for all of us,” said Jenkins in an exclusive interview with Our Weekly.
Jenkins, 55, who previously served as the NAACP’s vice president, said that his goal is to infuse “new blood” into the organization. “At the top of my list is bringing more younger people into the organization. I plan to reach out to young people by networking on the Internet, texting and taking part in activities that young people generally engage in.”
With the NAACP approaching its 100th anniversary next year, Jenkins said the organization is planning to launch a campaign to triple the organization’s membership. “We have a million African Americans in the Los Angeles area and all of us should be NAACP members,” said Jenkins. “I urge all residents to get on the mailing list and know what’s going on. They need to contribute once a year to the NAACP and make a point to be at one or two events or activities that we give because numbers make a difference.”
Jenkins said that there are a number of issues that the organization will focus on in 2009. “I think health care is always an issue. The other issue is lobbying for job promotion and creation in the African American community. We also need to campaign to get more small business loans in the community. When the government allocates small business loans, they should give a portion to the African American community.”
The new president stated that attracting more jobs to the community is tantamount because a lack of jobs breeds crime. “If you want to reduce crime, you have to give people jobs. With jobs comes responsibility. If you give people a stake in their community, like supplying them with jobs and housing, they are less likely to indulge in crime.”
The recently elected NAACP official has been busy tackling issues affecting local residents. “We get a lot of calls about housing and job discrimination,” said Jenkins. “We also get calls from residents, particularly mothers, about the imprisonment of African American males. Believe it or not, these issues are still pressing in the African American community.”
Jenkins reported that the organization will also focus on improving education for African American students in Los Angeles. “We’re networking with other groups to increase the admitting rate at UCLA and other UC campuses. We also plan to demand that more dollars go to inner city schools so that they can purchase books and computers. I’ve been to several inner city schools and was appalled when I saw that they don’t have computers or up to date books. There are also a lack of teacher’s aides in the schools. Within the next few months, we plan to draft an assembly bill and present it to the legislature. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get Assembly Speaker of the House Karen Bass to address a number of educational matters affecting our schools in the next couple of months.”
Jenkins noted that the NAACP has been in the courts tackling cases of predatory lending and has been networking with other civil rights groups to increase the admitting rate of African Americans at UCLA and other UC campuses.
“We are also planning to hold a town hall meeting on black-on-black crime, a problem which continues to be endemic in our community. We also plan to appeal to President Barack Obama about putting more money into the black community in terms of small business loans and incentive programs which will attract young, college educated individuals within the city boundaries. If we can attract more college educated young people to remain in the inner city, it will significantly improve the property values in our community and help lower the crime rate.”
Prior to becoming a district court judge, Jenkins was a civil rights lawyer specializing in personal injury, medical malpractice and police brutality cases. He also managed his own law office. Jenkins is currently a labor consultant in real estate.