Derrick Johnson ’97
a tireless pursuit :
reimagining the naacp WRITTEN BY AMANDA GREEN Photography by Pete Vogel
NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson ’97 addresses the crowd at the organization’s annual convention.
errick Johnson ’97 wears a warm smile as he arrives for our interview in one of the dozens of conference rooms at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. Jokingly, he asks his assistant to stake out a dark corner where nobody can find him. “I just need a 10-minute power nap after this interview, and I’m good,” he says with a chuckle. The average person would have burned out by now, but Johnson seems to take energy from each new challenge. I have shadowed him for the past several days as he responded to real-time news developments, posed for photos with stakeholders and partners, delivered a powerful keynote address, and shook hands with the likes of Former President Bill Clinton, Congressman Beto O’Rourke, and Governor Ricardo Rosello of Puerto Rico. For Johnson, current president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) — America’s oldest and largest civil rights organization — this is all in a day’s work. His nonstop tempo is consistent with the passionate proclamation he made to more than 2,500 delegates hours earlier at the convention’s general session, “We cannot rest on our laurels and our accomplishments. They are not strong enough. The reward for good work is more work.” Johnson, 49, served as interim president and CEO from July 2017 until October 2017, when the board of directors elected him to a three-year term. He brings with him an intimate understanding of on-the-ground activism, having previously worked as president of the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP, where he directed campaigns for stcl.edu