Harper Woods councilwoman to remain with NAACP

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published January 21, 2021




HARPER WOODS — After reviewing a request by the Grosse Pointes-Harper Woods NAACP branch to expel Harper Woods City Councilwoman Cheryl Costantino from the organization, the group’s national officials have decided to deny the motion.

The request came after Costantino filed a lawsuit against the city of Detroit and the Wayne County clerk regarding the circumstances surrounding the ballot counting at the TCF Center, which was where the Detroit votes were counted in the Nov. 3 election.

Grosse Pointes-Harper Woods NAACP branch President Cynthia Douglas said in December that since the population of Detroit is overwhelmingly African American, and there is a long history of African Americans having their voting rights infringed upon, the actions of Costantino raised red flags for her and her fellow NAACP members.

Costantino said she felt vindicated by the decision of the national NAACP officials.

“When I read the kind letter from the National NAACP President, I was so happy,” she said in an email. “Then I was relieved that the National NAACP understood that I was exercising my constitutional rights, and they recognized that there was no actual negative outcome to my actions. I was excited to be able to continue important work in the community. Currently, I feel honored and challenged by the responsibility that my membership holds, not to just be about rhetoric, but to do the work that needs to be done.”

Costantino said she had faced harsh criticism from many in the community as a result of the complaint.

“Unfortunately, some GPHW NAACP members grotesquely overreacted to my constitutional request for an election audit,” she wrote. “They said vile and untrue things and criticized my efforts. They created a false and dreadful scenario, which caused unnecessary panic, negativity and hatred in our community. Because others blindly followed their lead, jumping on the hate train, I received threats, disgusting emails, hateful letters to the city council on which I proudly serve. There was a lot of bullying by the GPHW NAACP and their associates. People that I previously admired and respected were beginning to believe the false narrative, admonishing me on social media, at Council meetings and everywhere I went.”

Costantino hopes to continue working with the Grosse Pointes-Harper Woods NAACP.

“The GPHW NAACP is a young club, only a few years old, and I feel they have lost direction and forgotten what NAACP stands for. The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and discrimination. It appeared that instead of seeking to eliminate hatred, the GPHW NAACP was promoting it,” she wrote. “I would like to help simplify the process that someone goes through to get help from the NAACP. It is too complicated. I had a friend whose son was not being treated fairly at school. I referred her to the GPHW NAACP, but they put forth many hoops for her to jump through to get their help. The time span was so long before they would do anything, that my friend gave up. We need to be more accessible, approachable, prepared and ready to help.”

Despite the criticisms, Costantino maintained that her only concern behind her actions was election veracity.

“We need transparency in the election process,” she wrote. “That affects all voters equally. As Dr. Martin Luther King once said, ‘an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.’”

Members of the Grosse Pointes-Harper Woods NAACP branch did not want to comment on the result of their request for permission to expel Costantino.

“We have looked at the response but we are not going to comment on internal matters,” said Douglas.