The Rev. Kojo Nantambu, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP, vowed Monday to breathe new life into the organization, to build a “Civil Right army” that is visible and outspoken on local issues.
Speaking at the group’s first general meeting since it was reorganized this year, Nantambu said he would work with local churches, sororities, fraternities and social organization to recruit new members and battle the “resurging racism and division” that he said are on the rise in Charlotte.
He also laid out 10 objectives for the group – which includes the elimination of “all segregated schools in the city by the year 2010.”
In an address that was equal parts pep rally and sermon, Nantambu, noting the sparse attendance at the meeting, held at Little Rock AME Zion Church, said too many blacks have become complacent.
“It seems we’ve become so satisfied and so comfortable with where we are that most of us don’t see a need to fight anymore for the things that are important,” he said. “But make no mistake; we are not yet totally free. Make no mistake; you have not made it… we have overcome some, but we have not overcome all.”
Nantambu said the group has set a goal to recruit 1,000 new members by the January birthday celebrations for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and 5,000 new members by the end of 2010.
He also pledged to end the internal divisions that helped fracture the group’s previous leadership.
“I promise you,” he said, “this NAACP will not engage in the bitter fighting, the bickering, the nonsense, the backstabbing and the useless petty arguing that…caused the demise of the administration before this one.
“We have to have a positive attitude,” he continued. “We have to have a deep desire to make it work. And we can’t be concerned about ourselves. We’ve got to be the organization for the community. We’ve got to be concerned about what we are here for.”
Nantambu said one of the group’s primary targets will be the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board. The NAACP nationwide has declared education the Civil Rights issue of the 21st Century, and the local branch will be visible at school board meetings, he said, to ensure that black children are fairly represented.
If Nantambu is to succeed, he must recruit people like Douglas Lattimore, who recently opened a drug- and paternity-testing business on Statesville Avenue and was in the audience at Monday’s meeting.
Lattimore said he had never before attended an NAACP meeting but was inside his business when a man came in and handed him a yellow flier and invited him to come.
Asked if he would now join, Lattimore said he was unsure.
“Right now I really want to do a little more research about it,” he told Qcitymetro.com, “but I like that unity is in the air. It seems like there’s unity here. It’s a nice place for black people to get together and talk about our concerns.”
Johnnie Mae Bostick, who also attended the meeting, said her perception of the local NAACP had generally been negative because of its well-publicized problems. But after hearing Nantambu, she said, she was willing to reconsider.
“They seem like they have a president who really, really loves the Lord and is going to put things in perspective,” she said. “I’m going to give it another chance.”
Below are the group’s 10 objectives.
1. To be a very strong, versatile, united and effective Executive Committee. To seek out individuals in the community with the skills, attitude and experience uniquely suited for the Civil Rights organization (such as this NAACP) and to appoint such persons to the Executive Committee.
2. To reach a membership numerical goal of at least 1,000 new members by the January advent of birthday celebrations for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Our overall goal is 5,000 new members by the end of the 2010 calendar year.
3. To secure a physical office site, providing much-needed visibility, a presence and a sense of permanence in the community; offering to the public the opportunity for easy, practical accessibility to the organization and its daily operations.
4. To institute an Internet Web site and systems network that will afford the branch expanded and instant access to our membership. The network will allow for more rapid and expansive dissemination of information; providing weekly updates on local, state and national NAACP activities. The site will also have the capacity to allow for online membership registration.
5. To fortify and build up our youth component. To make the NAACP more youth and people friendly, providing a pathway for future leadership. To incorporate and utilize functions and programs that will embrace and enhance the intellectual as well as physical skills and sharp imagination of our young people.
6. Health Fairs – to sponsor periodic health fairs throughout the community to provide black people and minorities with opportunities to have access to free healthcare (checking blood pressure, diabetes screening, cholesterol screening, etc.), conducting these health fairs at least once a month within the city where we hope to have satellite presence.
7. To eliminate all segregated schools in the city by the year 2010. To increase ethnic and economic diversity; no school should be more than 50 percent free lunch students. To have a policy that guarantees equitable distribution of the teacher workforce, new teachers and nationally board certification. To change implementation of Pacing Guide and to get mandatory input of Student Placement.
8. To address disparity in government contracts for minority contractors. To secure 20 percent of all contracts, especially government-sponsored projects. Redevelop depressed areas in urban black neighborhoods.
9. To pressure county, city and state governments on developing more inclusive and acceptance programs for minorities and African Americans. To incorporate and utilize functions and programs that will embrace and enhance the intellectual as well as the physical skills and sharp imagination of young people.
10. To start a citywide Mass Choir for the NAACP.