The NAACP will replace all leadership of its Philadelphia chapter — including its president, Minister Rodney Muhammad — after Muhammad posted an anti-Semitic image on his Facebook page last month, prompting widespread outcry and calls for his resignation.
First reported by the Philadelphia Tribune, the local NAACP chapter’s executive committee voted last week to dissolve itself and relinquish full leadership to the national office, which will appoint new leadership of the Philadelphia chapter next month, a spokesperson for the national NAACP said.
The national organization “will appoint an administrator for the Philadelphia branch to assume overall responsibility for the operation of the branch, its committees and staff, as well as shepherd a transparent transition to new leadership,” the organization said in a statement. “Moving forward, it is our continued priority to work with community leaders and faith leaders across Philadelphia and the country to strengthen the long-standing relationship between our communities.”
The national takeover will end Muhammad’s term as chapter president, a position he has held since 2014, and comes after a month of backlash from politicians and Jewish organizations over the social media post.
Muhammad, who worked as a paid political consultant for Mayor Jim Kenney until earlier this year, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. He initially told The Inquirer he didn’t realize the image — which included a caricature of a hook-nosed, yarmulke-wearing figure on the sleeve of an unseen person who is crushing a mass of people with a ring-bedecked hand — was offensive. Kenney was critical of the post and called on Muhammad to apologize.
Muhammad issued a statement July 27 saying that the NAACP strongly condemns any offensive language or imagery and stands against all forms of hate speech and anti-Semitism.
Critics noted that it didn’t include an apology and called for his resignation or removal.
Muhammad issued a second statement July 30, this time apologizing “for the hurt this has caused. I regret the insult, pain, and offense it brought to all, particularly those of the Jewish community.”
The local chapter’s executive board confronted Muhammad at a meeting in late July.
”He came out explaining it and trying to justify it,” Bishop J. Louis Felton, the local chapter’s first vice president, said this month. “You do not justify anti-Semitism.”
Shira Goodman, regional director of the Philadelphia Anti-Defamation League, applauded the NAACP’s removal of Muhammad and move to appoint new leadership, saying the actions “honor the organization‘s storied history and mission.”
“While the last few weeks have certainly been challenging, we have been inspired by the support of our friends and allies of all backgrounds and beliefs who came together to condemn hate,” Goodman wrote in a statement. “We thank the elected officials, faith leaders, civil rights partners and community members who demonstrated moral leadership and courage in rejecting Mr. Muhammad’s antisemitic post.”
“This has been a painful period in the long-standing and exceptional relationship between the Black and Jewish communities,” said Steve Rosenberg, COO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. “The NAACP is a preeminent civil rights organization, and we are grateful to both the local branch and national office for taking steps to address this situation and promote healing. We look forward to working with the NAACP to forge closer bonds with our two communities to address systemic racism and bigotry of all kinds.”
The announcement came after local Black and Jewish leaders held a virtual meeting Tuesday — without Muhammad’s presence — to discuss tensions and their future after fallout from the Facebook post.
This is the second time in six years that the national NAACP stepped in to make leadership changes in the Philadelphia chapter.
J. Whyatt Mondesire, the chapter’s longtime president, was removed in April 2014, along with board members Sid Booker, Donald “Ducky” Birts, and the Rev. Elisha Morris.
The four had been longtime friends and allies before a very public falling-out evolved into legal action about how Mondesire handled the chapter’s finances. Mondesire died in 2015.