Sunday, February 8, 2009

NAACP turns 100: Local branch plans year of celebrations

Telegram Staff Writer

NAACP are some of the most well-known letters on the planet.
They stand for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People - an organization that stands for equality and fair treatment of all people.
In the century it has existed, the NAACP has accomplished several feats, including the commissioning of black soldiers at war, the desegregation of public schools and representation of minorities in government.
'We the people of color, any color, would not be where we are today if it wasn't for the NAACP and its people, white and colored,' said George English, president of the Temple branch of the NAACP. 'It took all kinds of people to get the NAACP started, and it takes all kinds to keep it going.'
This Thursday, the NAACP will be celebrating its centennial, 200 years after the birth of Abraham Lincoln, one of the earliest political advocates of black freedom. And festivities are planned everywhere. The Temple NAACP branch will celebrate the centennial all year starting with a kick-off Founders Day Program at 3 p.m. Feb. 15 at Corinth Baptist Church in Temple. The keynote speaker will be Gary Bledsoe, president of the NAACP Texas Conference, and honored guests will be Myrtle Captain and B.C. Gillon, former presidents of the Temple branch.
And through the month of February, the Temple Public Library will display a history of the NAACP in Texas with materials provided by the local branch.
Then on March 7, the Temple branch and Keep Temple Beautiful will team up to have a Neighborhood Clean-up Day.
'NAACP is about being a service organization,' said Leontene English, education officer of the local branch. 'So one of the ways we thought we could recognize the centennial is to do something that would be of benefit to the community.'
Volunteers are needed to make the clean-up day a success.
'We don't want it just to be us out there,' Mr. English said. 'This is about everyone who cares about Temple.'
People wanting to participate should register with KTB director Tanya Gray at 493-4000.
In April, the Temple NAACP branch plans to donate biographies of influential NAACP members like Thurgood Marshall and Mary White Ovington. Marshall was the first black man to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967, and Ovington, a white woman, was the first president of the NAACP.
The Temple branch's annual Achievement Banquet will take place in May.
'Every minority who finishes (Temple) high school and receives a diploma will get a certificate of achievement,' Mrs. English said. 'And we award about 10 scholarships every year.'
Details on the banquet will be announced later.
Then in June, the local branch will participate in the annual Juneteenth celebration. Set for June 19, the party will take place at Ferguson Park and will include children's games and a parade. The Temple NAACP branch plans to have a car in the parade and booths on voter registration and NAACP membership at the park.
In July, the local branch plans to participate in the city's annual July 4 celebration, and in August and September, the branch will coordinate a series of school supply drives.
'We'll focus on the people and areas that are in the most need,' Mrs. English said.
And a talent show is scheduled for October, a food drive for November and a Christmas party in December.
'Not all of the details are ironed out,' Mrs. English said. 'But somehow or another, these activities will take place.'
Several members of the black community are excited at this year-long NAACP celebration.
'To me, it means the result of a lot of hard work,' said Ms. Captain who served as president of the local branch from 1963 to 1975, the year that Mr. English took over. 'In the 60s, I saw the city treat my people unfairly, and I fought it through my position on city council and in the NAACP.'
Ms. Captain said Temple's law-making bodies were wrought with discrimination.
'They put dark horses in elections,' Ms. Captain said. 'Those were white people other whites would put in campaigns just to take votes away from the black folk.'
Until 1977, Temple's city leaders were elected at large, meaning that they didn't have to live in the areas they represented. Ms. Captain said that situation was unfair for blacks and other minorities because their representatives knew nothing of them, their concerns or how they lived.
So she and Willie Floyd, pastor of Missionary Baptist Church, protested and fought the city until the practice of single-member district voting was established in 1977.
'That evened the playing field,' Ms. Captain said. 'It gave me and my people equal chance in being represented.'
Under the new form of voting which is still in use today, city leaders must live in the districts they represent and residents must vote according to their home district.
'That change, I think, is the most important accomplishment of the local NAACP branch,' Ms. Captain said.
But it's not the only accomplishment. Others are the achievement of single-member district representation in the Temple school district and the formation of the James B. Wilson Park, named for a black man who served as principal at two Temple schools.
The national celebration of the NAACP centennial will include a live broadcast of the 40th annual NAACP Image Awards, set for 7 p.m. Feb. 12 on the Fox network, and the Feb. 21 release of a series of stamps honoring the pioneers of the civil rights movement. Those to be featured on the stamps include Ms. Ovington; J.R. Clifford, the first black attorney licensed in West Virginia; Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper who fought for black voting rights; and lifetime activist Ella Baker.
And a NAACP Centennial Diversity Job Fair is set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 31 at the Embassy Suites, 2727 Stemmons Freeway, in Dallas.
Mr. English hopes that 2009, the year of the NAACP's centennial, reminds everyone to remember the ideals of people like Martin Luther King Jr. and President Barack Obama: All people are equal and deserve to be treated as such.
'Know that whenever the Lord calls us, he will not call us according to skin color,' Mr. English said. 'God doesn't care what color we are, just like when you're on a plane that's crashing you don't care what color the person sitting next to you is. Nothing except not dying is important.'

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