Revival of local NAACP group welcomed by many

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The reactivation of the Cape Girardeau chapter of the NAACP became official Saturday with the installation of officers at the VFW hall.

Many of the more than 50 people who attended the event thought it was long overdue.

"I felt it was time for us as a community to come together," said Emanuel Harris of Cape Girardeau, who will serve on the executive board of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Brenda Woemmel of Cape remained a member of the NAACP even while the local chapter became inactive about eight years ago.

"I'm really pleased," Woem­mel said about the revival of the Cape Girardeau chapter. "They [the NAACP] provide good programs and have some progressive ideas."

John Clippard, who was installed as treasurer of the chapter Saturday, said he has always tried to be involved in the community. He joined the NAACP because "I always thought it would be a worthwhile organization to associate with."

Friday social event

The installation of officers was a highlight of the Spring Freedom Fund Extravaganza Weekend. That event and a similar one in the fall are the local chapter's two large, scheduled fundraising events.

Friday evening's social event, "NAACP Evening with the Stars," featured local entertainers and a presentation on the history of the NAACP by chapter president Deborah Young. Saturday's NAACP Founders Day Community Celebration commemorated the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the organization.

The primary goal of the weekend activities was to gain new members and raise money to subsidize memberships for youths and others who can't afford the dues, according to Young. Revenue came from admission to the events, a 50-50 drawing and the sale of buttons and posters.

Another goal of the weekend activities was to promote awareness of breast cancer and HIV in women, according to Young.

Local officers were elected March 20 during a meeting of members. State NAACP president Mary Ratliff presided over the installation of the new officers.

"Southeast Missouri kind of fell off the map a few years ago," Ratliff said about the decline in NAACP activity during much of this decade, adding that the rebirth of the Cape Girardeau chapter is part of a trend toward reactivation of inactive local organizations.

Dr. Nathaniel Anderson of Belleville, Ill., spoke to the gathering about the importance of education for youth. Anderson has served as superintendent of schools in East St. Louis. Ill., and currently does consulting work for school districts.

"The most important thing is for youth to take advantage of the work that their forefathers have done to guarantee them the equal access to educational opportunities," Anderson said.

Educational equity is an important part of the state organization's platform, according to Ratliff, who describes the NAACP as "not a partisan organization, but a very political organization."

Plans for junior charter

Regarding the recently passed economic stimulus legislation, Ratliff said the organization is pushing to make sure early childhood education receives a fair portion of funding.

Reaching out to youths is an important priority for the local chapter, according to Young. A Christmas fundraiser to help establish a local junior charter was held in December.

The local chapter of the NAACP was organized in 1942. Membership dwindled during the 1990s as those who joined during the civil rights movement grew older and died. Longtime chapter president Michael Sterling moved away from Cape Girardeau in 1999, and after the death of his successor, the Rev. David Allen, the group became inactive.

The chapter's first membership drive was held Dec. 20 at Drury Lodge. There are now more than 80 NAACP members locally, according to Young.

Future activities of the Cape Girardeau NAACP chapter include a Juneteenth Emancipation Proclamation celebration. That event will be held June 19 to 21 at the Arena Building in Cape Girardeau.

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