Ben Jealous was a visionary leader [Letter]

It is my honor and distinct pleasure on behalf of the Baltimore City NAACP to thank The Sun for its selection of former national president and CEO Benjamin Jealous as the 2013 Marylander of the Year ("Marylander of the Year: Benjamin Todd Jealous," Dec. 29).

For the last five years I have had the honor of working closely with Ben and his incredible team at the national NAACP office. He was a hands on CEO who regularly engaged local leaders on important social issues. He was a natural consensus builder who actually listened to and valued the opinions of branch presidents and members of the organization. I can't tell you how many times I got personal calls and emails from Ben asking about everything from the well-being of my family to following up on an issue I had contacted him about just a few hours prior for guidance. He took the time to make us feel like we were part of a team — we did not have to fight alone.

In a short period of time he re-energized the NAACP by stabilizing our finances and making us a relevant voice once again in the on-going struggle for civil and human rights.

Ben Jealous has also led us with extraordinary courage. Whether it was the execution of Troy Davis and the national debate around capital punishment, the murder of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman or the controversial issue of marriage equality, he pushed us out of our comfort zones and demanded we build partnerships and stand with those facing discrimination, the disadvantaged and the voiceless.

I have no doubt that we are a better, stronger and more significant NAACP due to Ben's leadership, and we are on the cusp of an even brighter future because of his vision.

Again, congratulations to Ben and a great selection on the part of The Sun.

Tessa Hill-Aston, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Baltimore City NAACP branch.

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