A woman from the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP alleged on Wednesday that a longtime chapter member sexually assaulted her.
Jazmyne Childs, a former youth and college director for the state chapter, said she endured harassment shortly after her employment began in 2017. She identified the harasser as her supervisor, the Rev. Curtis Gatewood, who is running for state chapter president. The election is scheduled for Oct. 5.
Childs, 27, explained the unwanted sexual encounter occurred when she was preparing for a staff member’s surprise going away party.
"As I was unpacking food and setting it up on the table, I felt someone's breath on my neck,” Childs said at the press conference. “And then I felt him press his penis against my buttocks."
Gatewood said in a statement to the Associated Press that he’s never sexually harassed anyone.
Senior women within the state chapter also spoke out last week in Greensboro. Childs and the self-named “elder women” are demanding that the national office revoke Gatewood’s membership and establish a national policy against sexual harassment.
“The only one who can … discipline an employee is not the state, but the national governing party, and that’s where the complexity of this comes into play,” said Anna Blackburn, the state chapter’s Latino immigrant liaison.
Timeline of events
Childs first came forward with her claim in May 2017. The state chapter president at the time, the Rev. Dr. William Barber, ordered an independent investigation into the allegation.
“[The investigator] concluded that I had indeed been sexually harassed,” Childs said. “Rev. Barber sent the report to the national NAACP with the request that he be expelled as a member, which only the national body can do.”
In October 2017, the same month Barber sent this report to national, he stepped down as state chapter president and now serves as a national board member of the NAACP and president of Repairers of the Breach.
Childs said Gatewood resigned during the investigation. The national office suggested the state chapter file a cease and desist order against Gatewood for him to not attend anymore NAACP events. Childs said he defied the order.
“He repeatedly showed up at NCAACP events, and would stare me down,” Childs said Wednesday. “And this, too, made me feel violated."
When Childs discovered Gatewood was running for state chapter president, she wrote an open letter to Derrick Johnson, the national NAACP president, asking that he use his power to stop it. The elder women also sent an open letter of support of Childs to the national office.
“We went to [national] and exercised every remedy… we had to try to get this person removed from membership and to get a policy,” said Daphne Holmes-Johnson, treasurer of the state chapter. “This has gone on too long. It poses a threat to all women without that policy.”
National policies on removing members
The NAACP's national constitution states the board of directors has the power to remove an elected officer or member. A formal complaint must be filed to start the process of removing a member. Childs said she did file the appropriate complaint, but never received a response from the national office. The national office did not respond to multiple WUNC requests for an interview.
The elder women plan a trip to the national office in Baltimore today hoping to speak with national officers about the situation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.