Jun 2, 2017

"Boys and Girls broke my heart but NAACP showed me what the term sellout means"

"Boys and Girls broke my heart but NAACP showed me what the term sellout means," Liz Smith told me.

Liz Smith, who is the President of the local NAACP recieved on May 19 from NAACP's first Vice President, Donn Peterson.

"Greetings Liz,

I received a call yesterday from Captain Smith.  He referenced the news about you and wanted to be sure you were well.  He also indicated that he has been trying to get in touch with you.  If you have not already, I think you should give him a call and talk with him.

On a personal note, I hope this finds you well.  I’m concerned about you, worry, and keep you in my thoughts and prayers.  I know you are going through a difficult period of time and, through experience, know that I understand very little, only a fraction really of what is actually happening.

In our last board meeting (the one at Sharrone’s when you called-in), I expressed my loyalty and support for your presidency of our Branch.  I reaffirm that now.

However, much has happened since then and I have concerns.  I humbly submit to you that the NAACP in broad terms, and our branch specifically, deserves our ethical, dedicated, and selfless best.  I’m concerned that the personal will overshadow the organizational, if that makes sense.  In lay-terms, I’m worried that what is going on with you will be a distraction from what the organization needs to be doing, especially now.  You  really need to show up and be present at meetings and when you do, the elephant in the room will be what has happened.  To not address that will be a distraction, and even addressing it directly may prove distracting.  I don’t have a sense of what all of that looks like and I’m sure I’m not sharing with you anything you have not already thought about.  I suppose I’m trying to support you as your vice president by sharing my thoughts and expressing to you what I perceive needs to happen.  If you think you can take on these challenges and overcome them, then I can and will support you in that.  If you think everything that has happened will be too much of a distraction from the things we need to be doing as a credible, historic, powerful, poignant, and relevant civil rights organization in an area so desperately in need of the services we can offer, then I will support you in that too. 

I regularly attend and interact in settings where people are discussing the Lawson killing.  As we collectively try to define Justice for Josiah now and into the future, partnerships and collaborations are mentioned and I’ve been an advocate for NAACP involvement.  I think we represent such an appropriate “fit” given the current climate and circumstances.  We really need to be a voice right now and I worry that everything going on personally will distract from that.

I send this to you in love, respect, reverence, and the best of intentions.

Your vice president…"


  1. I've called Donn Peterson a sellout since he started at HSU. It sounds like he ravaged the culture and morale at UPD and will pander to whoever he needs to to not stir the pot. He did it with the Native American professor incident when he first moved here and did it again with the Lawson incident. John, do you happen to know who he was referring to during the KHSU "townhall" on Lawson when he was saying he despises the bloggers covering the case? I hope it was in reference to bloggers like Tina S., but I fear that was targeted at you. Thanks for all you do in covering these things, even when it's unpopular

    1. I have no idea since I did not attend the KHSU townhall meeting. Thank you Anon for your comment.

  2. We all have issues. and sometimes you just need to get away to clear your head.. Hope it all works out for her. and they just let her be.. she's done nothing wrong to call for her leaving. so why should she.

  3. An organization which can be splintered in its focus by the absence of one leader may have a focus and believe it has key values shared by all but if the above letter is an example of focus and key values then Mr Peterson needs more courses in effective leadership and re-involving people to strengthen the group.
    Fiery rhetoric may work when immediate action is needed but with any understanding of how a murder inquiry is done, flash responses benefit none and polarize those who might contribute to the inquiry or who need a more studied examination of the entire situation.
    That sort of study could be done without the presence of one person who is usually in charge.
    As I've seen the various dialogues on the unfortunate death of this HSU student, I keep returning to something a friend from work had told me when I asked her how she dealt with some difficult situations. She said: "I think about how Dr. King might respond. Of course the first response is prayer, second response is revalidation of my beliefs and values, third is my recommitment to sharing higher purposes and peaceful resolutions and fourth is to remember that it's not about me, it's about something bigger than me, that I'm just a part and it's better to be a part of something good than important and alone and standing or falling by myself". I remember it because I asked her to write it down for me.
    She started out as a clerk, no college, just a hard worker. She still doesn't have a degree but what she has is a very good job with a major international company and the respect of people who know her and who work with her.

  4. part 2
    I think sometimes a college degree can be a hindrance rather than a benefit because it can intellectualize things rather than returning to the basics of what people really need. And to find out that, listening is required.
    I don't know Ms. Smith but I have read (listened to) what she's said and to what others have said about her in support of her accomplishments, her contributions to individuals and individual groups and I think my friend Veronica would want to meet this lady, hear her stories, see her as a kindred soul.
    I would think with the Lawson murder that Mr. Peterson would have reaffirmed the group's need for Ms. Smith's leadership and participation. Reinforce the value of her work rather than marginalizing it.
    I do understand the desire for Justice. But it doesn't happen in a vacuum. Has the NAACP called for everyone at the party to provide statements? They (NAACP) could have offered to act as a go-between; receiving statements, excerpting the pertinent details and providing those to the authorities without identifying the people individually.
    Surely there must be better options than noisy marches which may demonstrate anger but do not lead to any progress and may further polarize the groups involved.
    Part of me wonders if perhaps Mr. Peterson wants more polarization so his influence will be greater and Ms. Smith's 'oil on troubled waters' approach doesn't fit in with his plans.
    As I said, I don't know Ms. Smith but I do wish her well. Thank you for letting us hear her story John.

  5. Sounds like a heartfelt letter of concern for Ms. Smith's wellbeing. The letter leaves things open for dialogue. It would be Ms. Smith's choice Wether to have that dialogue or resign.