Fairfax County NAACP President Kofi Annan has resigned from leading Fairfax County’s branch of one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the U.S.
Annan announced his resignation late Sunday in a lengthy post on Facebook, three days after The Washington Post reported on a dispute between him and Fairfax County Communities of Trust Committee chair Shirley Ginwright, who had served as Fairfax County NAACP president before Annan was elected to the position in 2016.
In a statement released on Monday, the Fairfax County NAACP confirmed that it had accepted Annan’s resignation the previous day “with profound regret.”
“Our primary focus as an organization is to address the myriad of issues Fairfax County residents face on a daily basis, from education and affordable housing, to community policing,” the organization said. “…It’s unfortunate that in the midst of a busy summer, we have to be distracted by what amounts to an interpersonal matter between two individuals who have known each other for years.”
Annan says he had been contemplating leaving “for a while,” and the decision partly stemmed from a desire to spend more time with his family.
However, he also acknowledged that his departure was the result of personal frustrations that he has with the culture and direction of the NAACP as an organization, issues that came out in a heated exchange with Ginwright.
In her role chairing the Communities of Trust Committee, which formed in 2014 to strengthen relationships between law enforcement and the public they serve, Ginwright emphasizes the need for trust and communication in order to resolve issues between police and community members, specifically people of color.
Annan prefers a more proactive approach, challenging the Fairfax County Police Department on issues such as police body-worn cameras, policies for school resource officers, and racial profiling.
Ginwright and Annan’s dueling viewpoints came into public view on July 9 during a community meeting that Fairfax County held at Gum Springs Community Center to discuss a series of shootings that had taken place around Alexandria in early July.
Where Ginwright pointed to dialogue and a diversification of the police department as key to bridging the divide between police and the public, Annan expressed concern about the FCPD’s assertion that the shootings were the result of gang activity and the possibility of racial profiling as a response to the violence, according to The Washington Post.
The Washington Post reported on July 25 that Annan sent text messages to Ginwright calling her a “…bootlickin a--- n---” and accused her of brownnosing white county leaders like Fairfax County Board of Supervisor Sharon Bulova and Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. when it came to black community issues within Fairfax County.
Annan now says he regrets the words that he used in his exchange with Ginwright, but the sentiment behind his texts still rings true for him.
“If I was to do it again, I would find more appropriate language to voice my frustration,” Annan said.
Looking back over his truncated tenure as the Fairfax County NAACP president, Annan says he is proud of the work that the organization has done to expand its membership and tackle issues related to criminal justice and education, with the creation of a new school resource officer program memorandum of understanding as a particular highlight.
After the Fairfax County NAACP raised concerns that the SRO program disproportionately affected students of color, feeding a school-to-prison pipeline, Roessler and Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand agreed to craft a new MOU to outline the program’s policies and the responsibilities of police versus school administrators.
The county assembled civil rights advocates and education representatives, including parent-teacher associations and teachers’ unions, for a community review committee that submitted recommendations to Roessler and Brabrand, who signed an MOU that was approved by the Fairfax County School Board on July 26.
The SRO community review committee was chaired by Ginwright.
While he believes the Fairfax County NAACP has accomplished a lot in the three years that he has served as its president, Annan is disappointed that he was unable to make more progress in bringing younger members into the organization, which tends to be non-militant and appeals more to older generations.
“I wish everyone in the organization well, but I think the culture of the organization is not one that is willing to push the right buttons,” Annan said. “I think sometimes we have to be willing to challenge even our allies in order to really advocate for African American issues and minority issues, and I don't think that that's always the case.”
The Fairfax County NAACP praised Annan for his “tireless advocacy and tenacious pursuit of justice,” which earned the branch the NAACP’s annual Thalheimer Award in 2018, while also denouncing his use of derogatory language toward Ginwright and apologizing to her, Bulova, and Roessler.
As the chapter’s vice president, Sean Perryman has assumed the Fairfax County NAACP presidency, and he says the organization’s leadership is expected to otherwise remain the same, though a replacement will be needed to take over his now former role as chair of the education committee.
Perryman hopes to build off of the work that Annan started, especially regarding education and criminal justice issues. The decriminalization of marijuana, for instance, could be a focal point for the Fairfax County NAACP in the near-future after Virginia Attorney General called for the drug to be legalized in June.
An annual crime report released on July 18 by the Virginia State Police showed that marijuana-related arrests are at their highest levels in the Commonwealth in at least 20 years with nearly 29,000 arrests in 2018.
“Although Kofi has left, we will continue to be zealous advocates for equity here. I don’t think that the agenda will change nor will the passion,” Perryman said. “...We have a lot of the team in place that was there, and we’ll be able to pick up from there.”
The Fairfax County NAACP will host its next general membership meeting on Aug. 10 at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Alexandria.