An Interview with Morris Reed
Morris Reed, the newly-elected president of the New Orleans chapter of the NAACP has been in his position for about a month, taking over the venerable local chapter at a time of looming crises on the local, state and national fronts. Reed recently sat down with journalist Lovell Beaulieu to discuss the myriad of issues, challenges and goals for the local branch. He spoke candidly about his views on where the organization and several other subjects.
Lovell Beaulieu: First, you are succeeding a very popular individual and a long-time advocate for poor and Black people, Danatus King. Where would you like to take the organization from this point on?
Morris Reed: Obviously, we’d like to grow the organization, have a focus on the issues, protecting the civil rights and guarding against the discrimination against all. We’d like our organization to be involved in all the civil issues. We’d like to improve upon the membership issues, those that have been dormant. We have to increase our numbers.
Beaulieu: In Colorado recently, there was a bombing of an NAACP office. What were your thoughts after this was reported at the same time the movie “Selma” was about to be released?
Reed: I found it to be shocking. I thought we had come to ending with that kind of right-wing activity. We have to be very vigilant. In the South, we shouldn’t be too relaxed that it can’t happen to an NAACP office.
Beaulieu: Where are we in New Orleans on matters of race?
Reed: We’re polarized. There’s distrust on the parts of Blacks to Wites and vice versa.
Beaulieu: How involved will you make the NAACP in terms of education in New Orleans as it relates to charter schools vs. the public’s right to control their own schools?
Reed: I’ve been to several meetings with Pat Bryant and Justice and Beyond. We can either be in leadership on the issues over education, or we’re going to be run over by the conservative elements in this town. We have to rid this community of the RSD (Recovery School District) and the takeover of our schools or we’re going to be run over and left behind.
Beaulieu: What type of profile will the NAACP New Orleans chapter have under Morris Reed?
Reed: The same fights we were fighting in the 1980s, we’re still fighting today—jobs housing, police brutality. Add to that the influx of the immigrant class. We risk becoming a part of the permanent service class. We have to be careful. When folks come into your communities selling their wares, and then going into their suburban bedroom communities, they’re not going to be respectful.
Beaulieu: What are your plans – as specific and detailed as you can be – on increasing membership?
Reed: We have an institution in place. The structure is in place. All of those (issues and concerns) are standing committees. We just have to fill those committees with volunteers. Some of the committees have been involved…economic development, criminal justice issues, the high school chapters, prison units.
Beaulieu: How relevant is the NAACP today?
Beaulieu: Media portrayals of the African-American male are often negative. How do you intend to address that?
Reed: That’s one of the things we’re going to be better advocates for. We have a lot of positive things going on in this community. Why can’t we get some coverage of that talent? There’s more than just the coverage of Black on Black on crime.”
Beaulieu: How do you intend to hold public officials – both Black and White accountable to the black community?
Reed: Confront them on things, call them to a meeting. Ask them the hard questions. Hold them accountable.
Beaulieu: How have you viewed the progress of African-Americans in your own lifetime, and how would you like to see the next generation fare?
Reed: I think we have shortchanged the next generation. Dr. King would be disappointed in Black on Black crime, Black girls having babies, the drop-out rate, the lack of businesses in our community. I think we’re behind. We have some work on our hand before we pass the gavel over to the next generation.”
Lovell Beaulieu is a journalist.