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NAACP Elects Youngest Leader

When 44-year-old Roslyn Brock was elected chairwoman of the NAACP's board of directors this weekend, it completed a generational shift in leadership of the 101-year-old civil rights group.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is led now by Brock and 37-year-old CEO Benjamin Jealous - both too young to have experienced the segregated United States that previous leaders endured, and both symbols of the association's effort to increase youth involvement and regain its stature.

Brock says the group plans to cast a wider net to bring in people from different backgrounds in an effort to regain the influence the NAACP had during battles over voting rights, segregation and discrimination.

"There is a misconception that the NAACP is a black organization. It's not. It's a multiracial, multiethnic organization," Brock said Sunday. "When we say people of color, we're really speaking to the issues of people who have fallen through the cracks and have been left out of prosperous society."

The powerhouse of the United States' civil rights movement in the last century, the NAACP is now most visible in local battles over school inequities, police shootings, racial profiling, home foreclosures and unemployment.

Brock is director of advocacy and public policy at Bon Secours Health System, a company that manages health care facilities. The NAACP will continue working on economic empowerment, education, criminal justice and civic engagement, Brock says, but she is "mostly concerned" with reforming the United States' health care system - another avenue to ensure that every American receives an equal level of basic service.

Brock replaces Julian Bond, who was chairman for a decade and grew up in the segregated South, fighting on the front lines of the civil rights movement. Bond, 70, says the NAACP didn't plan to have two young leaders at the same time.

"I don't think we plotted and planned that in 2010, the stars would align this way," Bond told the Associated Press. He called the timing "fortuitous" as the association tries to expand and become more relevant.

While many of Brock's plans focus on getting more young people involved - a youth summit is planned for May, and the group is expanding its online presence through social networking sites - she says it's impossible to forget the NAACP's history.

Older members "are the beacons in our struggle," Brock said. "Without them, I wouldn't have been elected chair, Barack Obama wouldn't be president, and there wouldn't be an NAACP."

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