President Barack Obama recently told convention attendees that he realizes NAN is not the national satisfaction network, it’s the National Action Network. Hearing this declaration from the commander in chief was like a congratulatory pat on the back for the organization’s passionate executive director, Tamika Mallory. “I think that was a great staple for us because it really got people to call us and say that’s exactly what I want to do; I want to be a part of something that is about action,” she says.
“Our mission is to be active in communities with advocacy. We are really on the ground in communities, helping with education reform, jobs, and to get people of color contracts in procurement and employment divisions of merging companies. We really do pride ourselves [on] the word ‘action’ but we’re also an organization that ensures all people regardless of their race, color, belief or sexual orientation are protected and that we receive the same rights that other races and groups are receiving. We know that doesn’t happen easily. NAN is in the driving seat of being an advocate for our community,” says Mallory.
NAN’s mission is etched in Mallory’s soul. She’s been an organizer and activist for the community-based organization since she was a teenager. Mallory’s fervent voice was the first to decry the repeated use of the N-word, B-word and H-word to address women and the people African American descent as well as on the issue of gun violence.
“One of the catalysts for me being offered this [national leadership] position was that I organized two significant [movements]. One was our decency campaign where we went into record companies and to our artist family and said that we thought that women should not be degraded as a form of entertainment and for profit. [The second] has been an ongoing effort where I have been able to bring gun violence out as a national issue. I have been able to coordinate with smaller grassroots organizations and give them an opportunity to be heard by government, in particular, in New York City,” says Mallory.
Mallory’s challenges didn’t go unnoticed. Today, there has been stronger oversight from radio networks and on music videos and combined efforts with other organizations like the NAACP who took up the cause to Bury the N-Word. NAN’s efforts brought a group of state senators together to create the SNUG (guns spelled backwards) campaign, where funding is provided to community-based groups that conduct anti-violence and anti-gang work.
On being viewed as a mentor, Mallory offers, “It’s the highest honor to be called a mentor to someone. I have been doing it with Mary-Pat Hector, who has a group called Youth in Action. I have been there [to] help walk her through the challenges and give her opportunities to meet people. I have ushered in the next generation of leaders into this organization by hiring younger people who otherwise may not have been able to get the types of jobs and have the types of responsibilities that I am giving them the opportunity to have.”
Mallory is the mother of 12-year-old Tarique. –yvette caslin