Thanks to its volunteers, the local NAACP has flourished since the opening of the Eugene-Springfield branch more than 40 years ago.
Beginning in October, however, longtime President Eric Richardson moves to an executive director position — a paid position for the first time at the local branch. Vice president Ibrahim Coulibaly becomes president.
Richardson says the role of president is not traditionally a paid position within the NAACP. However, there are only four paid positions at the local NAACP — office manager, Back-to-School program coordinator, Environmental and Climate Justice program coordinator, and now executive director.
The executive director will oversee outreach for the organization, as well as planning and organizing established programs and events, according to Richardson, who became president in 2013.
The new president will remain focused on issues relating to the local board and education committee.
“The executive director will focus on the strategic growth of the branch with special attention to fully realizing the relationship between the Historic Mims house and the local NAACP,” Richardson says.
The Mims House now houses the Eugene-Springfield NAACP offices. The house was a safe haven for African American travelers from the 1940s into the 1960s.
The local NAACP has seen steady growth in the past several years. Richardson plans on raising the resources needed to continue expanding its reach within the community.
“We will continue to work to bring forth African American and black leadership locally while working on creating a just and open society that serves all people,” he says.
Money for the paid executive director position comes from support from members and from the Oregon Community Foundation.
While the NAACP was created in 1909, the Eugene-Springfield branch has only been around since 1976. It serves Lane County first and foremost, but maintains a leadership role in Oregon thanks to its education committee, which helps break down barriers to education experienced by people of color.
On Oct. 4, Richardson passed his presidency to Coulibaly.
Before becoming vice president in January, Coulibaly had spent three years as head of the local NAACP’s legal redress committee. There, Coulibaly fought daily to prevent the decay of long-standing, yet ever-shaky, civil rights laws.
“I also helped people navigate the legal system to find out if their civil rights had been violated,” Coulibaly says. “I had a group of volunteers, including lawyers, students and even law school professors, who were helping me.”
Coulibaly was born in the West African country of Burkina Faso. When he was young, his family moved to France. He was raised in Paris and moved to Oregon in 2009.
Since last year, Coulibaly has also been a co-chair of the city of Eugene’s Human Rights Commission.
“I’ve learned to view things through the lens of human rights,” Coulibaly says. “With every decision the city or county makes, I want to be promoting civil and human rights.”
Coulibaly has worked as a mental health technician in hospitals around Oregon, including the Oregon State Hospital in Junction City. There Coulibaly sits on the civil and human rights board of the local Service Employees International Union.
As president of the local NAACP, Coulibaly says he wants to focus on boosting participation in youth programs and creating more leadership roles for women in the community.
The Eugene/Springfield NAACP office is open 9 am to 2 pm Monday-Friday. To become a member, to donate or to learn about volunteer opportunities, visit NAACPlanecounty.org or call 541-484-1119.