Leon Jenkins, president of Los Angeles NAACP
“Words like freedom, justice and democracy are not common concepts…People are not born knowing what these are. It takes enormous, and above all, individual effort to arrive at the respect for other people that these words imply.” James Baldwin
Leon Jenkins is the current president of the Los Angeles NAACP; he has been a community leader and activist in the South Los Angeles community for over 25 years. His community involvement includes judicial and legal intervention programs for at-risk youth; challenging the Los Angeles Unified School District and City of L. A. to provide better educational opportunities and resources in the African-American community; mentoring and sponsoring community youth groups; and spearheading gang intervention, prison reform, and rehabilitation programs.
Early in life, Jenkins was determined to become one of the individuals who made the effort, and made a difference. Born in L. A. and raised in Tennessee, he experienced education within the public school system and learned a unique respect for other people. Jenkins received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Journalism from Howard University and went on to pursue other endeavors. He became the first African American to receive a Masters Degree in Journalism from the University of Maryland, Graduate School of Journalism, College Park, Maryland.
Having already obtained two degrees, Jenkins continued his pursuit of breathing life into the whole concepts of freedom and justice, which led him to enrolling at Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan and obtaining a J.D. Degree in Law. He practiced law for over twenty years, effecting changes in the lives of clients, particularly juveniles, and also being instrumental in making positive changes in the justice system. Jenkins’ keen judicial astuteness was instrumental in him becoming the youngest African American judge to serve in Michigan; a position that he held for eight years.
As one concerned about democracy and the civil rights of all citizens, Jenkins aligned himself with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), became an active Life member, and began advocating for the rights of others. He served on the Executive Committee of the L. A. branch, where he held the chairmanship for the Legal Redress Committee for over ten years. That position led to him being elected as first vice president of the branch. In 2008, Jenkins was elected as president of the L. A. NAACP and two years later, he was re-elected to another two-year term.
As president, Jenkins’ incredibly hectic schedule keeps him involved in a variety of community issues, projects and activities, which impact the lives of individuals on many levels. But knowing and accepting his responsibility, and in doing his part to “arrive at respect for other people,” Jenkins further the concepts of “freedom, justice, and democracy,” which to him made life worth living. And in the final analysis, he knows, via his work at the helm of the NAACP, that his life’s efforts and worthwhile and not in vain.
In addition to his legal career and serving as president of the L. A. NAACP, Jenkins is also involved in real estate investment, sales and financing. And when time permits, he enjoys spending time with family and exercising.
Jenkins has an aggressive, legal presence in the community which was demonstrated in challenging Proposition 209 in the courts and the three-strike laws. He is a strong advocate of increasing Afro-American student enrollment at UCLA. These are just a few of the accomplishments that he has championed at the L. A. NAACP.
President Jenkins believes the NAACP, “Will always be an inclusive voice of fairness for all people regardless of race, color or creed united under a big tent of understanding, teamwork, shared opportunity, and cooperation through the democratic process.” Furthermore, what fuels his drive is that he remembers there was a time when a lot of lynching went on in this country at and that point in time, there was a lot of racial hostility. A group of well-meaning citizens got together and said enough is enough. Then two, dual-like organizations got started; one was biracial, mostly white, and the other was the National Negro Committee that was basically all African-American. Now there’s the NAACP.
There is no better time to become active in the L. A. NAACP. Come home to your roots; we need you, and America needs to hear your voice!