NAACP leader in Florida quits over ‘racist marginalization’

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The president of a local NAACP branch in Florida has resigned, saying that as a South Asian woman she experienced “racist marginalization” from others in the civil rights group.

Dr. Vanessa Toolsie, an elected vice president of the Orange County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, became its leader in March when Tiffany Hughes resigned to run for a Florida legislative seat.

Born in Trinidad of Indian descent, she posted a lengthy resignation letter on the NAACP branch’s Facebook page Sunday, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

She also placed a brief statement on her personal Facebook page, saying “I will NO LONGER tolerate ANY racism against me for being a #ProudBrownWoman of #SouthAsian and #Caribbean descent.” She added, “The fact that I have consistently been made to endure this hateful racism in anti-racist spaces is abhorrently shameful.”

Toolsie read her resignation letter during a virtual board meeting Monday night. One person objected, describing her claims as “false allegations against the executive committee,” the Sentinel reported. Others asked in the chat feature whether Toolsie had any proof and what could be done to assure that no one else has a similar experience. The meeting was adjourned without further discussion.

“I am concerned about this person and the charges that were made,” John Cummings, a spokesman for the group, told the Sentinel. “We don’t want to overlook or dehumanize or, in any way, cause anybody problems or concern intentionally or unintentionally.”

Toolsie accused a member of the group’s executive board of attempting to exclude her from the organization’s annual gala, ignoring her emails and purposefully failing to send out accurate and timely meeting announcements in a malicious attempt to sabotage her and impede her effectiveness, the Sentinel reported.

“I have tried to resolve this internally for months, but no action to curb the harassment and racist marginalization was taken by superiors prior to my resignation announcement,” Toolsie wrote, adding that it would be “hypocritical” for her to continue as president of an organization that is “against racism and oppression, while I continue to be treated with such bold disproportionate inequality, maliciously racistly oppressed.”

Tiara Robinson, now the first vice president, will succeed Toolsie when her resignation takes effect Aug. 31.