Low Turnout Prompts Re-Election of NAACP Baltimore President Kobi Little with 114 Votes

In a city with over 600k, only 136 voted in local NAACP election yesterday

(BALTIMORE – November 25, 2020) – The Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP conducted elections for the 2021-2022 term during the November 24th General Membership Meeting. Eleven positions were on the ballot. The office of president and the office of assistant secretary were contested.

Kobi Little and Will Hanna were candidates for the office of president. Dr. Francesca Weaks and Kaleena Weathers were candidates for the office of assistant secretary.

While Hanna pulled in 22 votes, Little garnered 114. The branch has over a thousand members.

The newly elected leaders for the 2021-2022 term are as follows:
Kobi Little, President
Joshua Harris, 1st Vice President
Shamoyia Gardiner, 2nd Vice President
Dr. Rodney Morton, 3rd Vice President
James Brown, Secretary
Dr. Francesca Weaks, Assistant Secretary
Dr. Bowyer Freeman, Treasurer
William Honablew, Esq., Assistant Treasurer
Carlton Douglas, Executive Committee Member At-Large
Lisa Hodges-Hiken, Esq., Executive Committee Member At-Large &
Joseph Kane, Executive Committee Member At-Large.

According to Will Hanna, “It is very disheartening.” He added, “The branch had over 3,000 members three years ago. Today, it only has 1,217 members. There’s a huge drop-off in involvement, engagement and membership in the branch. Of that 1,217, you had less than 12% participation. Most people did not vote.”

When asked why, Hanna replied, “For an organization such as the NAACP, that stands for Civil Rights and for fighting voter suppression, you would think that any administration would want to have full participation of its branch members. I have pe4rsonally raised these concerns since July.”

In July, he requested that the voting process be followed to the letter. This included a mailer to go out – per the election rules – about the notification of the branch members where the nominating committee is selected. But, that never happened. This letter would have laid out the rules for everyone to

“How can you be for voting rights but yet we disenfranchise our own members”, asked Hanna. “136 people voted in a city of 600,000 people – 65% of whom are Black. This is unconscionable. Now, we can see why people don’t turn to the NAACP when they need a resolution to their problems. This is why change is necessary.”

With a storied past, the Baltimore NAACP is the second oldest branch in the nation and was championed by the likes of Lillie Carroll Jackson and Enolia Pettigen McMillan, the first female national president of the NAACP. Former presidents of the local branch include G. I. Johnson, Marvin Cheatham, and Tessa Hill-Aston. Hill-Aston was the first female president since McMillan.

According to Hill-Aston, yesterday’s voter turnout was not encouraging. “It’s sad,” she said. “What really made me sad is the number of votes of yesterday’s election results,” she added.

She said that under Cheatham’s leadership, the numbers were much higher. And when she took over, they went even higher.

“We had way over 2,000 members during my tenure. I even received a national award for Baltimore’s increased numbers which reached over 2,500 members.”

She also stated that although 2020 has been a difficult year, it is in these kinds of times that people depend on the NAACP even more. “There’s been an overall lack of activity, including no fundraising. Each year, we typically host the Annual Freedom Fund Banquet, but in 2018 and 2019, there was no such event. People want titles but they do not want the work. There’s a lot of hard work in running any non-profit and it’s all volunteer work, but still – people need to know that you are there for them. There have been a lot developments over this past year both locally and nationally where the Baltimore NAACP should have been out there.”

Kobi Little said in a statement: “I’m grateful to the members of the Baltimore NAACP for re-electing me to the Branch presidency. I extend my thanks to all who offered themselves as candidates and offer my congratulations to the outstanding team of leaders who were elected alongside of me. I look forward to continuing to serve with them in the pursuit of justice, equity and equality. Last night, despite the pandemic, we had nearly a 100% increase in participation in comparison to the 2018 election (which was conducted by the national office). 69 votes were cast in 2018. 136 votes were cast this year. We are making progress on many fronts and there is still much work to be done. I invite all to partner in the work of the Branch and to recruit new members. In the last three years we have had only one member to recruit hundreds of new members. We need all of our members to recruit hundreds of new members. Please join the branch today! Adult membership is $30. Youth membership is $15. https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/naacpbaltimore.”

He added, “In the period leading up to my election in October 2018, the Branch had three presidents in under a year, there were negative news articles, the Enolia P. McMillan building was in disrepair and the Branch and its committees were not meeting consistently. Since that time, I have returned decorum to the Branch and assembled a multigenerational leadership team that has reengaged in the work of the NAACP, restored the Branch’s reputation and put our treasury in the black. As president, I have led the Branch efforts in public policy and direct action. Key areas of focus have included housing, police accountability, climate justice, economic development and voting rights. During my administration we have installed a new roof and a new heating and air conditioning system to ensure that we protect our office building and preserve the investments made by previous generations of leaders. In the face of the unprecedented dynamics presented by the coronavirus, the Branch responded swiftly and consistently to inform, assist and protect our community from COVID and the equity and economic security issues related to the pandemic. Our mobile public health education unit presents information about COVID that our community can trust and the Branch partners with businesses, government hospitals, community organizations and houses of worship to distribute free masks and fresh produce throughout Baltimore. During this year’s special, primary and general elections, the Branch went all out to educate voters about the election changes and to turn out the vote. Thousands tuned in to watch the debates sponsored by the Baltimore NAACP and the Afro News. Today, we have a Baltimore NAACP that we can be proud of and a Branch that is out front representing our interests. Nonetheless, our work is unfinished. There is a lot more to be done to ensure the equality of rights of all people, to stand in strength and solidarity with the vulnerable and to advance the cause of justice. Our city deserves an economic development plan that boosts Black home ownership and businesses and creates wealth and economic security in our communities rather than pushing us out of our communities. Our youth deserve safe, healthy and high functioning schools as well as meaningful opportunities for recreation and employment. All of us want a corruption free police force that will keep us safe and honor our trust. Over the last two years we have worked tirelessly to get the Branch on track and moving in the right direction and, with your support, in 2021 and 2022, we will work to make advancements in these and other areas.”