Tessa Hill-Aston resigns as president of Baltimore NAACP

Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP for the last seven years, said she resigned from the organization Monday.

In an interview Tuesday, Hill-Aston, 68, cited completing key goals, such as hosting the national NAACP convention this past summer, as contributing to her decision. But she also said internal strife at the civil rights organization wore on her.

“I’m tired,” she said. “My work is done here. Ever since I became the president, I desperately wanted to have the convention. I worked three years tirelessly to have the convention. The fundraising was spectacular. It was a great attendance.”

After the convention in July, Hill-Alston said, she told her “inner circle it’s time for me to slow it down.”

“I was totally dehydrated; I had to be hospitalized,” she said.

She said she intends to continue to work on issues important to her, such as eviction prevention, voter registration and the expungement of arrest records.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she said. “I’m a Baltimorean.”

Hill-Aston said problems began for her last year after she defeated the Rev. Cortly “C.D.” Witherspoon, a well known local activist, in an election for the presidency of the organization. It was her fourth time winning a two-year term to the unpaid position.

Several Witherspoon allies were elected to the board, however, and she said they began to file complaints against her to the national NAACP, alleging mismanagement.

“Those things happen all the time,” she said of the complaints. “I was going to resign anyway. There’s rumors and there’s gossip but I’m not entertaining that. C.D. has not been a friend to my camp.”

Witherspoon did not respond to a request for comment.

Hassan Giordano, chairman of the Baltimore NAACP's criminal justice committee, said he was resigning to show support for Hill-Aston.

He argued that Hill-Aston was the victim of unfair attacks.

“It's going to be pure chaos,” he predicted.

Giordano said his understanding is that First Vice President Ronald Flamer would be in line to become acting president until next year’s election.

Flamer did not respond to a request for comment.

At a meeting of the local branch of the NAACP held in Northwest Baltimore Tuesday evening, Gerald Stansbury, president of the Maryland chapter, said the event was not open to the press.

Stansbury declined further comment, but said a statement from the state branch would be issued soon.

A spokesman for the national NAACP said he was looking into the matter.

The position of president of the local NAACP is a volunteer post. Hill-Aston works full-time as a program administrator in the city health department.

As of Tuesday, the local branch’s website was down, as was its Facebook page.

When she was first elected in 2010, Hill-Aston was the first woman to hold the position in nearly 30 years. Enolia McMillan held the position in the early 1980s and went on to become the first woman president of the national NAACP.

During her tenure, Hill-Aston was outspoken about issues including Confederate monuments, the Freddie Gray case, Baltimore’s crime rate and charges of bias within the Baltimore Fire Department,

She also was open to working with Republicans and welcomed GOP leaders to join the organization at events in West Baltimore. She often said expungement and voter registration were the branch’s two biggest goals.

Marvin L. “Doc”Cheatham Sr., past president of the branch who attended the Tuesday evening meeting, said he was concerned about the local organization’s future.

“No matter what has happened, if the branch needs my assistance, I’m willing to help in any way that I can,” he said.

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