The Feb. 28 resignations followed a meeting with the Rev. Nelson B. Rivers, a top official with the national office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Depending on whom you asked, Rivers came to Portland last week either for a routine visit or to clean house. (See "Guess Who's Coming...," WW, Feb. 27, 2002.)
Rivers' Feb. 27 meeting with members was closed to the media. In a press conference announcing their resignations the next day, former chapter president Roy Jay and former vice president Jo Ann Bowman said Rivers' trip was a waste of time and didn't address the need of local chapters to control their finances and membership. Bowman described Rivers as "an ineffectual and indifferent representative [who] read us the by-laws of the organization."
But several others described the meeting with Rivers as extremely productive. "He made it clear that this is a membership-driven organization, and that a handful of people don't dictate the issues to be discussed," says Frances O'Halloran.
O'Halloran and other members had complained that the local chapter, which hadn't had a general meeting in six months, was ignoring key issues, many of which came up in the meeting with Rivers. "We talked about police brutality, the educational gap and economic development," says Chad Debnam. "He was right to show the chapter how to conduct a meeting."
A general election for new officers won't be held until November. Members are meeting this Saturday to discuss whether to hold interim elections sooner. (Chapter Treasurer Shirley Nacoste did not resign and is expected to stay on in her post). Regardless, says O'Halloran, the remaining members are eager to get the local chapter up and running. "The body is alive and well," she says. "The community is crying for some help for a lot of unjust activities. It is very clear that the general membership can now act."