NAACP aims for a higher profile Local leader sees rebuilding process for organization

February 23, 1997|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Gerald Stansbury wants to let people know the NAACP is there for them.

As a teen-ager in the mid-1960s, he carried signs promoting the organization in front of a house in Bacontown, believed to have been burned by the Ku Klux Klan. His father, the Rev. George A. Stansbury, was pastor of a church in the area, and the younger Stansbury was helping him recruit members for the NAACP. "I was young, but I was out there holding my sign," Stansbury said.

Today, Stansbury is president of the Anne Arundel County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. And he again wants to display a sign.

This time, he will put the sign in front of the Annapolis building where he has opened an NAACP office, the organization's first in its 50 years in the county.

"We want the community to know we're there so they won't have any problem finding us," Stansbury said. "There are many young folks out there that haven't ever heard of the NAACP."

The office is little more than a cubicle behind sliding-glass doors on the ground floor of the Ganderco building at Forest Drive and Old Solomons Island Road. But to Stansbury, it marks an important step forward for the organization.

"We have got to move into the next millennium," he said in a recent interview there.

Along with office space, the branch has a telephone listing and a meeting room upstairs. And the state NAACP conference is considering moving its offices to the Parole building. Two years after he defeated longtime branch President Jean Creek in a contentious election, Stansbury acknowledges that the NAACP may seem quiet in the county.

"We're going through a rebuilding process," explained Stansbury, who won re-election in November.

Creek challenged those results with the national office, but state NAACP President Hanley Norment said he expects the complaint to be resolved soon in Stansbury's favor.

In the midst of the controversies, Stansbury has focused on recruiting members, bolstering the roster from 300 members in 1995 to 1,600; computerizing records; and building coalitions with black clergy, fraternities and sororities.


He also talks of leading the black community to economic self-sufficiency. The NAACP is working on an initiative to encourage black churches in the area to patronize businesses run by members of their congregations. And Stansbury envisions a black-owned bank in the county and a black-owned events hall for banquets and large gatherings.

"We are going to have our own," he said, leaning forward in his chair in the small office. "It's going to take some work, but I feel it."

At last month's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner in Annapolis, Stansbury was honored with a Drum Major Award for his work with the NAACP. And the state NAACP conference has taken note of his efforts, especially the promotion of black businesses.

"Stansbury is a rising star in the NAACP," Norment said. "The way he has developed an ability to handle problems has been impressive. We knew this would be a tough fight, and he did too, but he took it on."

Stansbury, 45, gestures frequently as he speaks and accompanies almost everything he says with a smile. His role as head of the NAACP is to be a visionary but not the sole spokesman for the group, he said.

NAACP board member Randy Rowel says his boyhood friend is more comfortable behind the scenes.

A message

"He doesn't thrive on speaking to groups," Rowel said. "He has a message, and he wants to say things but he would rather see the fruits of his labor be reflected in the organization."

Rowel and Stansbury grew up in Mulberry Hills, a tight-knit, predominantly black community behind the Naval Academy Golf Course on the North Shore of the Severn River.

It's a place where families stay for generations and where youngsters couldn't get into mischief without catching a scolding from every neighbor on the street before getting home.

Stansbury, the eldest of eight children, described his upbringing as "disciplined."

After learning how to play basketball with a peach basket mounted on a garage, the 1969 Annapolis Senior High School graduate went to Morgan State College on a basketball scholarship.

A physical education major, Stansbury interrupted his studies for a two-year stint in the Army.

Though he returned to Morgan in 1976, he left in 1978, eight credits shy of a degree.

He worked full time as a substitute teacher in Annapolis before taking a job with a black-owned security company.

Two children

He moved back to Mulberry Hills in the 1980s with his wife, Neva, and their two children -- Tatia, 18, a freshman at Morgan State University, and Gerald II, 14, in ninth grade at Broadneck High School.

Stansbury's position, like all in the county branch, is unpaid. So he juggles his NAACP duties with three jobs -- driving a taxi; delivering subpoenas for the family business, Stansbury Process Servers; and substitute teaching at Bates Middle School.

He started the taxi service last year after being laid off twice in four months.

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