Local NAACP foresees year of revitalization

The Warren-Page County branch of the NAACP will usher in a year of revitalization and invigoration at its Annual Freedom Fund Banquet on Saturday at the Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center.

According to Vice President Alfred Woods, the theme for this year’s banquet is “the struggle for a new generation.”

“It came about because of our concern for our youth … they tend to not be able to connect or get involved with the new economy,” Woods said.

The banquet is from 3:30 to 7 p.m. and tickets are $40. Broadcaster and talk show host Jack Gravely will be the keynote speaker. He serves as interim executive director for the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP.

Membership Chairman Alford D. Carter III said that while the branch’s current executive board works tirelessly to keep things running smoothly, members have adopted the initiative to take a more active role within the area this year.

“We are the oldest civil rights group in America, so we need to be visible all the time,” he said. “We have identified a lot of needs in the community … we’re going to try to fill those needs.”

Part of that visibility entailed meeting to facilitate clear lines of communication with Front Royal officials like Vice Mayor Hollis Tharpe and Sheriff Danny McEathron in July.

Carter said that this year, the 60-some-member branch will broaden its horizons in order to reach out to new members, increase youth outreach, church participation and further mentorship programs.

“We’ve got a lot of older members and it’s like with any organization: Ss the membership population gets older the activities kind of wind down,” he said. “Certainly I’m a firm believer that the people who were there can be of greater guidance and be mentors.”

Woods noted the advantages of getting youth involved with the NAACP and said he’s seen successes of the past youth programs of the Winchester branch.

“We were talking about having a youth chapter, but right now we have not gotten off the ground because we don’t have a leader,” he said. “To get anything done, you have to have leadership … and we are lacking in leadership as far as individuals.”

To him, that leadership needs to be able to connect the local needs of the branch with the missions and initiatives of the larger national organization.

In addition to a youth chapter, Carter said that the branch has considered the idea of reaching out to the community through a health fair, possibly in collaboration with Valley Health, that will address common problems like diabetes.

Other programs and events on the branch’s calendar include future fundraisers, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration and educational Black History Month programs.

Carter said there is a problem with public perception of the true mission of the NAACP.

“It’s simply a matter of making sure we’re all treated equally under the law,” he said. “It’s not a matter of black and white, it’s a matter of being treated fairly, and that’s what we’re all about.”

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com