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Leon W. Russell Chairman, National Board of Directors

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Leon W. Russell has dedicated his life to fighting for human rights and has served on the National Board of Directors since 1990 in various roles, including Assistant Secretary, Chair of the Convention Planning Committee, and Vice Chair. His peers recognized his decades of work and leadership when they elected him as chair in 2017.

Before joining the board, Russell served as president of the NAACP Florida State Conference of Branches for 4 years after serving for 15 years as the first vice president.

After 35 years of public service as the Director of the Office of Human Rights for Pinellas County in Clearwater, Florida, Russell retired in 2012. During his time as a civil servant he was responsible for implementing the county’s affirmative action and human rights ordinances. These ordinances continue to ensure a racially and sexually diverse workforce and support the implementation of the county’s equal employment opportunity programs.

From 2007 to 2011, Russell served as President of the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies (IAOHRA). The IAOHRA membership consists of statutory human and civil rights agencies throughout the United States and Canada and other nations. These agencies enforce state and local civil rights laws and are actively engaged in reducing and resolving intergroup tension and promoting intergroup relations.

As part of his lifelong work and leadership, Russell has served as a member of several organizations including the International City Management Association and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. He served as a board member of the Pinellas Opportunity Council, president and board member of the National Association of Human Rights Workers, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Children’s Campaign of Florida.

As the Chairman of Floridians Representing Equity and Equality (FREE), a statewide coalition, Russel worked to oppose the Florida Civil Rights Initiative, an anti-affirmative action proposal. Ultimately, the initiative failed to get on the Florida ballot for voter consideration, because of the strong legal challenge spearheaded by FREE.

Russell has received numerous civic awards and citations for his work ensuring equality and equity across the U.S.


Derrick Johnson NAACP President and CEO

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Derrick Johnson serves as President and CEO of the NAACP, a title he has held since October of 2017. President Johnson formerly served as vice chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors, as well as state president for the Mississippi State Conference NAACP. A longstanding member and leader of the NAACP, Mr. Johnson has helped guide the Association through a period of re-envisioning and reinvigoration.

Under President Johnson’s leadership, the NAACP has undertaken such efforts as the 2018 “Log Out” Facebook Campaign, pressuring Facebook after reports of Russian hackers targeting African Americans, the Jamestown to Jamestown Partnership, marking the 400th year enslaved Africans first touched the shores of America, and the 2020 We are Done Dying Campaign, exposing the inequities embedded into the American healthcare system and the country at large.

As the Biden Administration took office in 2021, President Johnson led the charge in calling for a Cabinet-level position focused squarely on advancing our nation’s longstanding issue of racial justice. President Biden signed an Executive Order establishing an interagency effort to eliminate systemic racial barriers and ensuring federal policies are rooted in equity, optimizing the well-being of all in public policies.

President Johnson also continues to be on the frontlines on some of the most pressing civil rights issues of our time, calling out Virginia Governor Ralph Northam for his use of Blackface, condemning the burning of Black churches in Tennessee and Louisiana, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition to Attorney General William Barr’s nomination, and overseeing the NAACP’s vote to impeach President Donald J. Trump at the 110th National Convention in Detroit.

President Johnson elevated the Association’s visibility and voice as we called for a national response to the coronavirus pandemic that was informed by existing racial disparities in health care outcomes, access, coverage and services, as well as the disparate impact of COVID-19 on African Americans and other people of color.

Recognizing the critical importance of quality health care, he has long advocated for expanded Medicaid eligibility, affordable health insurance options, and investment in community-based health care infrastructure through a strong network of equitably-located, well-resourced community health centers.

Born in Detroit, Mr. Johnson attended Tougaloo College in Jackson, MS. He then received his JD from the South Texas College of Law in Houston, TX. Mr. Johnson has also furthered his training through fellowships with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the George Washington University School of Political Management, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He has served as an annual guest lecturer at Harvard Law School, lending his expertise to Professor Lani Guinier’s course on social movements, and as an adjunct professor at Tougaloo College.

Mr. Johnson is a veteran activist who has dedicated his career to defending the rights and improving the lives of Mississippians. As State President of the NAACP Mississippi State Conference, he led critical campaigns for voting rights and equitable education. He successfully managed two bond referendum campaigns in Jackson, MS that brought $150 million in school building improvements and $65 million towards the construction of a new convention center, respectively. As a regional organizer at the Jackson-based non-profit, Southern Echo, Inc., Mr. Johnson provided legal, technical, and training support for communities across the South. President Johnson is frequently featured on CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC and many others, advocating on behalf of the Black community and all those who are affected by systemic oppression and prejudice.


Karen Boykin-Towns Vice Chairman, National Board of Directors

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Karen Boykin-Towns built a reputation as a visionary and driver of strategic results. She brings demonstrated success in the areas of policy, advocacy, communications and proactive change management to NAACP in her role as Vice Chair of the National Board of Directors. Her goal is to apply and share her experience to make positive change. She now serves as Founder and President/CEO of Encore Strategies LLC a boutique consultancy focusing on integrating business and public affairs initiatives. A distinguished strategist, global business, and civic leader, Boykin-Towns previously contributed her expertise across government, the nonprofit sector, and Pfizer a Fortune 50 global biopharmaceutical company, while also championing civil rights and social justice issues.

At Pfizer, Boykin-Towns advanced quickly into executive management roles. She was recruited as a senior legislative analyst based on her reputation for success in state government and held key leadership roles in public affairs, government relations, global policy, and human resources. Based on her positive impact driving change across the organization, in 2008 she was selected by Pfizer’s CEO to serve as its first Chief Diversity Officer. In this role, she successfully developed an integrated, global strategy resulting in internal progress and external recognition of the company’s advances in diversity and inclusion as a competitive advantage. Boykin-Towns concluded her time at Pfizer as Vice President of Corporate Affairs for their $34 billion Innovative Medicines business where she served as a member of the Senior Leadership Committee which consisted of the top 200 leaders in the global organization.

Embracing her passion for policy and politics, Boykin-Towns’ early career involved serving as legislative director and then chief of staff to New York State Senator David Paterson who later became the 55th Governor of New York. In this role, she led the strategy and execution of legislative efforts related to civil and human rights, community development, and environmental issues.

Boykin-Towns leverages her talent as a coalition builder and social change agent through her active participation in various organizations. Along with her work with the NAACP where she is a Diamond member, Karen serves on the boards of several organizations including American Airlines Community Council; Visiting Nurse Services; Brewster Academy, and independent director for iFIT, maker of NordicTrack. She also serves as senior advisor for FGS Global and was co-executive producer for the 53rd NAACP Image Awards show.

Karen has been featured in Black Enterprise, Bloomberg Businessweek, Black Entertainment Television, PR Week, WWD, Ebony Magazine, Crain’s, African American Career World, Network Journal and The Cut. Savoy Magazine named her a “Top Influential Woman in Corporate America” in 2016. In 2020, she was named “Woman of the Year” by Seeds of Fortune and named by City & State as one of New York’s Power Players in Politics and Government. In 2021 Karen was selected for Lafayette 148’s Unordinary Women Campaign.

Karen Boykin-Towns holds an MBA degree from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College of the City University of New York (CUNY), as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Mount Saint Vincent. A mother of two young women, Boykin-Towns is married to former State Assemblyman Darryl Towns and lives in Brooklyn, NY, and Charlotte, NC.