QA’s NAACP re-char­tered, recharged

Record Observer - - Community - By DOUG BISHOP dbishop@kibay­times.com

QUEEN­STOWN — The re­or­ga­nized and rechar­tered Queen Anne’s County Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion for the Ad­vance­ment of Col­ored Peo­ple Branch 7024 held a schol­ar­ship ban­quet at the Bay Coun­try Moose Lodge No. 831 in Queen­stown Satur­day af­ter­noon, April 30. Ac­cord­ing to Mas­ter of Cer­e­monies Alvin White, a por­tion of the pro­gram was to “bring recog­ni­tion to the churches in the strug­gle for their con­tri­bu­tions to the African Amer­i­can com­mu­nity” as they have worked along­side the NAACP over the past 100plus years since the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s found­ing in 1909.

In­deed, more than 20 lo­cal black churches were rec­og­nized dur­ing the pro­gram for their sup­port of the Free­dom Fund of the NAACP, help­ing en­roll the min­i­mum num­ber of mem­bers to main­tain a lo­cal branch (50 mem­bers). The orig­i­nal branch was formed in Queen Anne’s County in the early 1970s when the per­cent­age of African Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion in the county was nearly 30 per­cent of the to­tal county pop­u­la­tion. Over the years, as the orig­i­nal found­ing mem­bers aged (most are now de­ceased), the lo­cal branch be­gan to fade as the African Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion de­clined to less than 8 per­cent of the county’s pop­u­la­tion, as it is to­day.

The branch lost its char­ter three years ago. A suc­cess­ful ef­fort was made in the past year to bring the char­ter back. April 30 marked the re-estab­lish­ment of an of­fi­cial branch again in Queen Anne’s County, with former Queen Anne’s County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion mem­ber L.C. Lawrence as pres­i­dent. The theme for 2016: “Now is the Time!”

Key­note speaker for the ban­quet was Dr. Bar­bara Wheeler, re­tired Kent County Su­per­in­ten­dent of Schools (2008 — 2013). Wheeler, who re­sides in Ch­ester­town, served as an ed­u­ca­tor, teacher, and a wide range of ad­min­is­tra­tive roles in the pub­lic schools of Mary­land in four dif­fer­ent coun­ties and Bal­ti­more City for 45 years be­fore re­tir­ing in 2013.

Her heart­felt talk moved the 132 mostly African Amer­i­cans who at­tended. Wheeler be­gan by ac­knowl­edg­ing the NAACP as “the na­tion’s old­est and most widely rec­og­nized grass-roots civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tion, cam­paign­ing for equal op­por­tu­nity and con­duct­ing voter mo­bi­liza­tion.”

“De­spite dra­matic court­room and con­gres­sional vic­to­ries, im­ple­men­ta­tion of civil rights has been slow, painful and of­ten times vi­o­lent,” she said, adding, “Our work is far from done.”

She shared a per­sonal story of dis­crim­i­na­tion she ex­pe­ri­enced in the early 1960s as a high school stu­dent in Bal­ti­more City, where she lived in Ed­mond­son Vil­lage, which was still largely white at that time.

“There were only a few African Amer­i­cans that at­tended the high school,” she said. “I re­mem­ber walk­ing over to the vil­lage shop­ping cen­ter to the ice cream store with friends, only to be told that I could not sit at the counter and eat my ice cream. The em­bar­rass­ment of be­ing turned away in front of a counter full of kids is still ex­cru­ci­at­ing as I think of the ex­pe­ri­ence to­day.”

In her talk, Wheeler was ex­tremely crit­i­cal of schools for fail­ing chil­dren, es­pe­cially chil­dren of color.

She said, “In each of the five school sys­tems where I worked, I found pock­ets of medi­ocrity and even in the same schools, pock­ets of ex­cel­lence. The most egre­gious was the lack of aca­demic achieve­ment of stu­dents of color. The fact re­mains that our chil­dren are many times be­ing de­prived of ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties and rig­or­ous in­struc­tion be­cause of the color of their skin. They are pro­vided medi­ocre in­struc­tion and te­dious bor­ing task at best.

“We know what ef­fec­tive in­struc­tion looks like,” she added. “We know that all chil­dren can learn.”

As su­per­in­ten­dent, “I found it ap­palling that I had to lit­er­ally beg for funds to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tion for chil­dren,” Wheeler said. The re­sponse was al­ways “there is no money.”

“I re­al­ize money alone will not make a great school sys­tem. How­ever, what I know for sure is that with­out fi­nan­cial re­sources school sys­tems will not be com­pet­i­tive as far as at­tract­ing and re­tain­ing tal­ented teach­ers. Schools will not be ex­cel­lent if per­son­nel are medi­ocre,” she said. “With­out ad­e­quate fund­ing the in­fra­struc­ture of schools will be­gin to de­te­ri­o­rate. Over time poorly funded pub­lic schools will have a ma­jor im­pact on the en­tire econ­omy.”

Wheeler also drew as­so­ci­a­tion to fail­ing schools in per­pet­u­at­ing a fail­ing crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

“Our crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem is a pipe­line from in­ef­fec­tive, un­der­funded schools to over­crowded jails where peo­ple are per­fect­ing their skills at be­com­ing even worse crim­i­nals and bit­ter hu­man

be­ings,” she said. “Tax­pay­ers are pay­ing $80 bil­lion in Amer­ica to keep peo­ple in pri­son for one year. Just think about that! The U.S. has 5 per­cent of the world pop­u­la­tion and 25 per­cent of the world’s pris­on­ers. To­day we have 2.2 mil­lion peo­ple in pri­son.

“Ob­vi­ously, some folks need to be locked up and for a long time. Vi­o­lent crim­i­nals, mur­der­ers, rapists need to be in jail. How­ever, many pris­on­ers are locked up for non-vi­o­lent of­fenses. Many times the pun­ish­ment doesn’t fit the of­fense. The U.S. im­pris­ons a larger per­cent­age of its black pop­u­la­tion than South Africa did at the height of Apartheid. These young men are part of a grow­ing un­der-caste, per­ma­nently locked up and locked out of main­stream so­ci­ety. They have no train­ing, no skills, no job and no hope.”

She gave nu­mer­ous ex­am­ples of what $80 bil­lion could be used for as pos­i­tive al­ter­na­tives to in­car­cer­a­tion.

She en­cour­aged par­ents and grand­par­ents to get in­volved, come to their chil­dren’s schools, de­mand­ing bet­ter schools and school re­sults for all chil­dren.

“Amer­i­can gover­nance must re­ally mean ‘We the Peo­ple,’ not we the priv­i­leged.” she said.

She ad­vised, “Hold chil­dren ac­count­able for their ac­tions in school and thus their learn­ing. As par­ents, we must set good ex­am­ples. Turn the TV off.

Stop tex­ting and have mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions with your chil­dren.

“I’m so grate­ful to the many peo­ple of all races and creeds who sac­ri­ficed so much so I could go to school and have the op­por­tu­nity to en­joy the Amer­i­can dream. I would not be here were it not for the lead­er­ship and per­se­ver­ance of the NAACP.”

She closed by say­ing, “Let us all stand to­gether as hu­man be­ings, as Amer­i­cans, and re­buke racism and in­jus­tice and em­brace the words of the great Martin Luther King … ‘Dark­ness can­not drive out dark­ness, only light can do that. Hate can­not drive out hate, only love can do that.’”

Free­dom Fund Chair­per­son Mar­sha Wilder pre­sented the branch’s first Com­mu­nity Achieve­ment Award to Eric Daniels, par­ent co­or­di­na­tor at Sudlersville Mid­dle School, for his work and in­volve­ment in the com­mu­nity.

L.C. Lawrence con­cluded the pro­gram by rec­og­niz­ing all of the found­ing mem­bers of the orig­i­nal QA branch, read­ing all their names, and per­son­ally rec­og­niz­ing Ge­orge Gould and Made­lyn Hol­lis, who were present.

The pro­gram was en­hanced by per­for­mances of The Burke Fam­ily Singers. The de­li­cious ban­quet meal was pro­vided by He­len Todd Cater­ing of Cen­tre­ville.

The county NAACP branch meets at 7 p.m. the third Thurs­day of each month at the Gra­sonville Com­mu­nity Cen­ter. The pub­lic is in­vited.

PHOTOS BY DOUG BISHOP

Mem­bers of New United Methodist Church of Ch­ester, L.C. Lawrence, Deb­bie Lawrence, Sharon Starkey, Kim Kel­ley, Rev. Mon­ica Pot­ter, Rev. Turhan Pot­ter, Mary Reed, Paulette Mid­dle­ton, Mary Spence and Iwoyna Brown (not pic­tured, Victor Brown) ac­cept a recog­ni­tion cer­tifi­cate at the Queen Anne’s County NAACP pro­gram Satur­day, April 30, in Queen­stown.

Queen Anne’s County NAACP Branch 7024 Free­dom Fund Chair­per­son Mar­sha Wilder, left, presents the Com­mu­nity Achieve­ment Award to Eric Daniels.

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