Wednesday, March 8, 2023
Annan served as chapter president of the NAACP from December 2016 to July 2019. Following a dispute with the previous president of the chapter, he writes, "I should have just put my phone away."
Annan said Sharon Bulova (D), the former chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, suggested what became the book title to him before his 2019 resignation as president of the NAACP. He recalled Bulova saying, "You came into the county like a bull in a china shop."
"I was motivated by the injustices of watching so many Black men gunned down or beaten to death in the street at the hands of police," he writes. According to Annan, "Bull in a China Shop" demonstrates why "voting alone accomplishes nothing to alleviate the issues of the Black community's needs." Annan's book provides a view of how and why Black concerns are deprioritized. He said that the Democrats did such a good job of establishing the NAACP as the voice of the Black community but that his criticism "raised eyebrows."
Through Annan's writing, the reader travels with him as a youngster in Guyana, one of the poorest countries in South America. Annan observes his single mother working tirelessly to improve their lives. She moves them to Antigua and then the United States. In 1991, she relocated them to the District of Columbia. It is called the murder capital of the United States at that time, and crack cocaine is prevalent.
Annan is a middle school student who hears gunfire daily. "Some of us even get robbed at gun or knifepoint. We were all afraid — afraid for our safety," he says.
"What we needed was professional counseling, conflict resolution alternatives, (and) alternative accountability programs." He says the grownups around him also suffered. "Overworked, underpaid, and equally traumatized."
"Wanting to understand how the system worked and why it had such a devastating impact on communities of color," Annan studies Criminal Justice and Psychology at Tennessee State University. After graduating and liking his college service in the Army Reserves, Annan re-enlists as an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army. It places his career trajectory "on an upward trend."
Early in Annan's NAACP tenure, members discovered that ICE had raided a church to catch immigrants trying to leave a shelter. "I knew we could not let this moment pass by without doing something," he writes. "The prevailing sentiment among the immigrant community was fear, and it hit home in a major way since I, too, was an immigrant," he writes.
A panel discussion on immigration involving elected officials, law enforcement, and community activists follows. Annan's NAACP presidency changes thinking. "We no longer cared what elected authorities thought of us. The authority came from the people, not the elected leaders," Annan says.
Annan realizes he is "upsetting the apple cart." Annan's first clue is that things are not what they seem, leading to a series of new insights. Annan holds town hall sessions on affordable housing with the NAACP. He learns that budgets are not about actual dollars but priorities. The money is always there.
"We simply had to convince the county to make it a priority. … After months of being told there was no room in the budget to expand on affordable housing initiatives, the county did an abrupt about-face and allocated an additional $5 million toward the housing trust fund," Annan writes.
Summer of 2018, then-FCPD Chief Edward Roessler requests school resource officers in FCPS elementary schools. Annan says he confirmed SROs fuel the school-to-prison pipeline. He writes, "The results are devastating to Black and Latino youth."
After Annan resigned from the NAACP in 2019, the reader follows him "helping Black people." He campaigns for the Virginia State House of Delegates and loses the primary. He creates "The Activated People" magazine and turns it into a non-profit for volunteer activism. If Annan wants readers to take something away from his book, it is that if he can make an impact, anyone can.
In 2021, Annan left the Department of Defense. In February 2021, he opened Soul Rebel-Caribbean American Fusion Food Truck. "I felt unburdened, felt my heart was free, and conscience was clear," Annan said.
After his book launched, Annan said, "I worked hard to improve the lives of countless Virginia families, but in the process, I sacrificed time that I should have been spending with my own family."
Now Kofi Annan and his wife Shareem are ready for another transition. “We are proud to celebrate our two year anniversary [of the Soul Rebel Food Truck]! But there's more, we will be moving to Petersburg to open Soul Rebel restaurant this summer.”
"Bull in a China Shop: Evolution of a Racial Justice Activist," by Kofi Annan is available on Amazon.
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