As we prepare to enter Black History month 2021, the Defender sat down with the president-elect of the NAACP Houston to find out what direction he wants to take the 100 plus-year-old organization. Bishop James Dixon, the pastor of Community of Faith, is no stranger to social activism in Houston, but this position would give him a broader, more traditional platform to work from. The leadership gavel will be passed from Dr. James Douglas to Dixon on February 11.
Dixon, 58, admits that he is “standing on the shoulders of giants” and “clergy has been at the forefront serving as a catalyst for the movement,” acknowledging the trailblazers’ Wheeler Ave Baptist Church Emeritus pastor William A. Lawson and Antioch Baptist Church pastor F.N. Williams Sr.
To capture Dixon in his own words, the Defender focused on key topics.
Younger generation recruitment
My vision is to create generational connectivity. We’ve got to connect our destiny and history. There has to be a recruitment of younger African Americans into the NAACP. We’ve got to build an army of NAACP members who are young, excited, energetic, innovative and courageous. We’ve got to recruit them deliberately. We’ve got to develop and empower them…It can’t be the old folk over here and the young people over here. We need all of us working together in the branch… Our future depends on it. In fact, our right now depends on it.
I have a vision to really elevate the cause of economic justice. Recent disparity studies in our area have proven that for decades and decades, there have been disparities in terms of contractual procurement at Harris County and at the Port. We have got to do better with economic justice not just in the social sector, but also in the corporate sector. When we look at the participation of blacks and minorities on corporate boards, we’ve got to change those numbers because until there’s economic parity, that will be social disparity. A community cannot heal itself when it’s not financially viable and strong. So we’ve got to deal with that. African-Americans spend far too much money in our local economy to be ignored. So that’s the fight that we’re going to take on, and we’re going to educate people to understand it. But we’ve also have to motivate those entities, public agencies and corporations to understand the need for it because it empowers all.
Social Justice | Criminal Justice
We’re going to stay in the battle, on the front lines, as it relates to social justice and criminal justice reform which is still a big issue. We’ll continue the fight against things that contribute to over-incarceration. We’ve got a social injustice system that is plaguing our community right now in a tremendous way. And we’ve got to do police reform. I was fortunate to be on the Mayor’s police reform task force, and now it’s about implementation and execution – making sure that we don’t just have a document that looks good on the shelf, but that it actually gets carried out into practice. In policy, we’ve got to change some things. In order for this change to happen, though, we’ve got to be vigilant and the NAACP is going to be vigilant as it relates to police reform, to make sure those reforms get implemented with great execution.
We’ve got to increase membership. We need an army. I plan to lead a very robust membership recruitment campaign to the point that we need thousands of members. It’s amazing how many Blacks are in our city, in our region who have never interacted with the NAACP or never been members of the NAACP. We’ve got to recruit those people aggressively. We got to tell people who we are, what we do and why it’s important. And in a climate like this, that should not be hard to sell, right? The racial divide in America and in Houston and in Texas right now, makes it very clear that we’ve got our stalwart social justice activism. I think that the NAACP has to do a better job with communicating that our advocacy is on behalf of the common, everyday citizen. We’re going to take the NAACP to the streets, to the neighborhoods, knocking on doors on street corners. People are going to know who we are, what we’re about, and that we’re here for them.
Old school NAACP
I get excited when people say (NAACP) it’s old schools and outdated. You know everything gets old, if it stays around. The key is to continue to reinvent yourself and represent yourself in a way that we remain relevant, resourceful and relatable. And that’s going to be what I’m going to push as a resourceful NAACP. That means changing methodologies, changing the language and representation and identifying with the needs people have. Now, I think that is the key. If you get sick and go to the hospital, you won’t be bothered that the hospital is 200-years-old, as long as it could treat your illness, right? It’s the same hospital, but there’s new medication, there’s a new doctor, there’s a new prescription, there’s new science. We’re going to bring that same kind of philosophy to the NAACP where people understand, yes, the organization is old, but the treatments are not old. The methodology is not old. There are new ways and new approaches to dealing with this. The fact is, racism is old. Institutional white supremacy is old – 400-plus years old, and the knee on our neck for 400 years, it’s not a new knee. We have to understand that we’ve got new ways of getting things done. If we can solve problems that people care about today, then I think they’ll forget about how old we are and then begin to think about how relevant we are, how soulful we are, how relatable.
WHAT HAS THE NAACP DONE?
The NAACP is busy at work more than most people realize. Our local branch is engaged in improving our community on behalf of African-Americans and others. For example, housing justice in the housing sector, we have the most robust training program and a mortgage program for Blacks in the city. Linda Everett and her team have done an outstanding job creating new Black homeowners in collaboration with the Houston Black Real Estate Association. Most people don’t realize that it’s been the local NAACP on the front lines, fighting for economic parity. Our participation as Blacks and the minorities in the construction of Minute Maid Park, in the construction of the Toyota Center, all those things happen because the NAACP is constantly at work, making sure that African-Americans are at the table.
We partnered with Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis and the Commissioner’s Court, on the economic disparity studies. We now have a disparity report. Those things are happening with the support of the NAACP. And it took Rodney Ellis working in collaboration with the NAACP to move that forward, as it relates to social justice, economic justice and jail reform. Working with Commissioner Ellis, the County Judge and commissioner, the NAACP made sure we got a public defender to improve the quality of legal representation. Much of what we do is behind the scenes. I think we have to do a better job of telling our story and telling it consistently so that the community doesn’t think that we’ve gone away or in hiding. We just need more fuel and more manpower and womanpower to get the job done.
OPPORTUNITIES (DesignIQ – you can delete this paragraph from the layout if it is too long. Do not delete from the story because it will go online)
We got a sea of potential out there that’s been untapped. And so every time we talk about who’s going to run for office, we name the same few people. I’m saying, well, what about those millions of people out there that nobody knows? I think that’s where our opportunity for growth and our success really lies. We’ve got to tap into that. I think it’s also an opportunity for us now, economically. We got to have more corporate board leaders in the corporations in Houston, the Fortune 500 companies. All these boards have a deficit, as it relates to African-American presence and participation on those boards. I’m talking about the paid boards, the boards that make economic decisions in our community every day, where billions of dollars swirl around downtown Houston.
So I think that’s a huge opportunity, especially in this climate where people now are saying, “We now understand as a result of George Floyd, that these disparities do exist.” We’ve got to take advantage of this window of opportunity and make sure we get systemic changes in policy, changes that will outlast our positions. And that’s the key for me. I think the challenge is, however, we’ve got to be sure that we collaborate more and not do things in isolation. I have a vision for a collaborative coalition of justice. So whether it’s the Innocence Project and Black Lives Matter and the Urban League and LULAC –all of us, the soldier justice organizations have to work together.
People who are poor do not have choices. And that’s the real issue for us. We have to give them apparatus to pull themselves up. We’re going to rally. But beyond that, we’re going to be at the board table. We’re going to be talking to corporate America, to the board chairman, to the CEOs of these corporations, saying, “What are you doing to reinvest?” To live in the shadows of skyscrapers, in the billions of dollars in downtown Houston and there is abject poverty next door to it, is an oxymoron that reveals that we don’t have a lack of cash. We have a lack of commitment and compassion. We want to be that voice for those who need it.
WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT DIXON
Philosophy of Life: The difference you make for others is the only difference that matters.
Life Lessons You have Learned: Humility, Faithfulness, Empathy, Dependability
Favorite Color: Blue
Favorite Food: Medium rare steak
Things the Black Community Can Do:
- Unite behind causes that matter.
- Learn to love each other and love ourselves.
- Work on our education and economic elevation and prosperity because if we’re not educated, we cannot participate economically and without that, we can’t save ourselves.
- Become a member of the NAACP Houston Branch.