Effort to revive NAACP in Carroll might fail Local, national officials at odds over rules

September 11, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

An attempt to revive a branch of the NAACP in Carroll County is mired in internal struggles and could fizzle for lack of members.

At a meeting in Westminster last night, local organizers said regional officers of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had altered requirements for obtaining a charter since they began reorganizing six months ago.

"Give us the advocacy we are entitled to," said Thelma P. Smith, the county's NAACP interim president, who resigned from that position last night. "There is a sense of urgency. We don't have to be 50 strong. Carroll County is a racist county. It needs to have a vehicle to address individual needs."

The Rev. Cordell Hunter, NAACP state regional chairman, assured the group that he will continue to do whatever is necessary to reactivate the branch. He urged it to tackle local issues that will make a difference in the county.

"I want this branch reactivated," Hunter said. "It has work to do. We have to succeed and involve others. I am here to say it can happen and I am willing to make it happen."

Without Hunter's support, the Rev. James Hinton said, he would dissolve the effort immediately.

Hunter promised to speak to state NAACP leaders today to try to resolve the matter.

The Carroll group has scheduled a planning meeting Oct. 8.

To establish itself, an NAACP branch must submit the names of 100 dues-paying members who are residents of the area; to maintain its charter, a branch cannot drop below 50 members, NAACP officials said.

The Carroll group began organizing in March at Hinton's church, Union Memorial Baptist Church in Westminster. It has enrolled 60 of the county's 4,201 African-Americans, who make up less than 3 percent of Carroll's population.

Mark Clack, national director of branches and field operations for the NAACP, said yesterday that requirements for membership were not altered, and that there never was a 50-member requirement to start a chapter.

"Membership is critical to how we analyze the need and desire for the NAACP in a community," Clack said. "One hundred members should be a slam dunk, with the church base and stated interest level."

A new branch must also receive recommendations from the state conference president, Herbert H. Lindsey. The Carroll group has no such endorsement.

"There has been no sign-off for this branch," said Clack. "The Carroll County community never received the authority to organize as a committee."

Lindsey said the group lacks the preparation needed to become community advocates.

"We cannot launch a chapter until it is prepared," said Lindsey. "There will eventually be a chapter in Carroll, but we want to be sure all preparations are met so it survives."

Absent adequate membership, Clack has asked Smith to "cease and desist" using the organization's name.

"We cannot have people acting in the NAACP's name, when we have no control over what they are doing," said Clack. "Ms. Smith cannot represent herself as interim president."

Smith contends the organization doubled the membership requirement to start the chapter and charged the organization with gender bias.

"The only reason Clack has responded to me in this way is because I am a woman," Smith said. "You don't change the rules or make them up as you go along."

Clack called that a "sensationalist allegation that has dumbfounded me" and easily recited numbers of women in key positions in the organization. "Once she was informed she needed 100 members instead of 50, everything went awry," said Clack. "How does finding 50 more members hurt?"

Pub Date: 9/11/98

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