Four Questions with the NAACP’s Derrick Foward
Its annual dinner, the largest sit-down dinner in Montgomery County, drew 1,300 to the Dayton Convention Center in October. The Dayton unit has won NAACP’s highest local recognition, the Thalheimer Award, at each of the last five national conventions, including two second-place awards at the national convention in Cincinnati in July.
Foward grew up in Jefferson Township and is an account manager for the Speedway convenience-store chain. He had no background in politics or the civil rights movement until he met State Rep. Fred Stahorn (D-Dayton), now Ohio House minority leader, more than 15 years ago.
How did you get involved in politics and the NAACP?
I was attending my sister’s college graduation celebration in 2002 and met State Rep. Stahorn, who was keynote speaker. I started meeting a lot of political people through him and served on then Rep. Tony Hall’s advisory council.
I was asked to run on a slate of candidates for the Dayton NAACP as third vice president and I was the only one on my slate elected in 2002. The following year I was a surprise winner for one of the state executive committee seats. In 2004 I turned down a request to run as Dayton unit president because I didn’t think I was ready. They asked me again in 2006 and I agreed and won.
To what do you attribute your longevity as president?
My whole journey has been a God-led journey. My civil rights journey has been a God-led journey. Some may not understand that but that honestly is what it has been. I will not ever profess to know everything, but I will surround myself with very capable people who have the answers.
The NAACP triggered an investigation at the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office that led to firing of two deputies for racial text messages last year. What’s your sense of police-community relations in Dayton?
We just met with several members of Police Chief (Richard S.) Biehl’s command staff and we’re going to start having quarterly meetings with the police department. We went over a few cases we’ve had with the police and had a good conversation. My late father, Dr. Alphonsa Foward Sr., worked as a police officer. That’s why I don’t condemn any police officer. I was the child wondering if my father going to come home at night. But we want to make sure when a police officer does something wrong they’re held accountable. Otherwise it puts people in the mindset nothing will change.
What should people know about the NAACP?
They should know that from its inception it is a multiracial, multigenerational, multicultural body of people founded both locally and nationally. It’s from our very beginning. We’re here for the entire community.
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