Local NAACP head faces strong challenge in vote

November 16, 1994|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,Sun Staff Writer

For only the second time in 18 years, the outcome of the NAACP's local leadership election is uncertain.

Jean Creek, who has been routinely returned to her post as director of the Anne Arundel County Branch of the civil rights organization every other year, faces a strong challenge from Gerald Stansbury as members go to vote tonight at the First Baptist Church in Annapolis.

Mr. Stansbury, 43, has accused Ms. Creek of mismanaging and poorly reporting NAACP membership funds while using her powers as director to control each election.

Ms. Creek, 51, countered that Mr. Stansbury was trying to use the organization as a platform for his own political agenda and the aspirations of his Democratic friends.

The tense race, some local observers say, reflects the disarray in the national organization, which has a $4 million deficit and a profound leadership crisis.

"I think the challenge for Ms. Creek's leadership is the same as what they're facing on a national level," said Ward 5 Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a civil rights activist who backs Mr. Stansbury. "Both are being challenged as incumbents who have been around too long."

Other black activists agreed. "If it weren't Gerald Stansbury, it would be somebody else," said Bertina Nick, an Annapolis community organizer. "It's anybody but Jean Creek. That's what this movement is about."

Still others say the drive to replace Ms. Creek is a knee-jerk demand for change but not necessarily the best solution.

"The only thing I can see is that the young Turks believe the NAACP is not speaking forcefully enough to be heard on many issues," said Ward 3 Alderman Samuel Gilmer.

"The NAACP is more cautious as to how it gets things done. It uses the courts," said Mr. Gilmer, who directed the local branch from 1967 to 1973. "We may not make as much noise, but we get it done."

Ms. Creek has talked about her lobbying efforts to turn the abandoned Wiley H. Bates school, once the only high school for blacks in Annapolis, into a senior center. She says that would bring jobs to blacks in the Annapolis area.

She points to scholarship drives, preparation programs for Scholastic Aptitude Tests and other outreach efforts for black students among her top priorities, along with membership drives.

Mr. Stansbury calls himself a grass-roots candidate who has mentored black teen-agers and conducted a youth sports program. He says he wants the NAACP to become more involved in the day-to-day lives of black communities and has argued that the organization should take a more active role in fighting crime by reaching out to youth in crime-ridden neighborhoods.

"We have to rebuild the NAACP," he said. "It's a very vital organization to African-American communities, but it hasn't been very effective with their problems."

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