Raising the NAACP's profile Like national base, local chapter rebuilds after power struggle.

March 06, 1997

TWO YEARS SHY of its 90th anniversary, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is regrouping and refocusing.

On the national level, the effort is being led by Kweisi Mfume, the Baltimorean who resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives in December 1995 to take over the troubled organization.

In Anne Arundel County, the drive is spearheaded by Gerald Stansbury, who became the local NAACP's director last November after a heated internal ruckus.

The power struggle between Jean Creek, the group's president for 18 years, and Mr. Stansbury bore a eerie resemblance to the infighting on the national level. Initially, Mrs. Creek seemed to have won re-election. But after the national NAACP, acting on an appeal from the challenger, ordered a new election, Mr. Stansbury triumphed twice over Mrs. Creek, who challenged the outcome each time. This was the kind of divisiveness that no one needed.

For that reason, it is gratifying to see that Mr. Stansbury has started an energetic campaign to rebuild the chapter. Membership is reportedly growing, records are being computerized and the branch is building coalitions with other organizations with similar missions.

For the first time in its 50 years, the Anne Arundel chapter of the NAACP also now has an office and telephone number. "We want the community to know we're there so they won't have any problem finding us," Mr. Stansbury said. "There are many young folks out there who haven't ever heard of the NAACP."

Since its founding in New York in 1909, the civil rights organization has changed quite a bit. The early domination of the organization by its predominantly white founders is gone.

What has not changed is the fact that, despite its extensive membership, the group has never been able to reach the black masses. Throughout its history, it has essentially been a middle-class organization.

Under Mr. Mfume, the organization is trying to become more inclusive. It particularly hopes to draw more young people to its ranks. Mr. Stansbury has similar goals in Anne Arundel. His is no easy challenge, but it must succeed if the association is to build greater recognition for its critical cause.

Pub Date: 3/06/97

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