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.”
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.