NAACP's new state chief urges more unity

Increased participation among branches a goal

November 30, 1999|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

New state representatives of the NAACP are vowing to spark increased participation and unity among branches as they start their terms in office this week.

The new officers of the Maryland State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will be inaugurated this evening in a ceremony at the First Baptist Church of Guilford in Howard County.

"We will march whenever we have to march -- wherever a crisis arises, the state will be there in support of our branches," said Jenkins Odoms Jr., the new president, who replaces Herbert H. Lindsey.

"That's the goal of this state conference: to come together as one," Odoms said.

Said Edythe F. Hall, newly elected first vice president, "I've worked with a number of state conferences over the years, so I've seen some that function wonderfully and some that are structured very loosely. We need to work strongly to encourage participation."

The largest contingent of the state officers, who were elected in October for unpaid, two-year terms, comes from Howard County.

The other new officers include: Cordell Hunter, second vice president; Edward S. Lee, third vice president; Betty J. Johnson, secretary; Drusilla Borah, assistant secretary; Samuel T. Foster III, treasurer; Clive Alexis, Bernard James, Sr., Michael Moore, Leroy W. Warren Jr., Carolyn G. Wilderson, executive committee; Erica McLaughlin, youth division president.

Candidates in Baltimore, Carroll and Anne Arundel counties -- among others in the state -- were ineligible to run because branch officials had not paid the required portion of collected dues to the state conference by the time of the election, according to Lindsey.

Odoms, 59, defeated Linda M. Plummer, president of the Montgomery County branch, 75 to 44, he said.

The retired Army lieutenant colonel, who has been president of the Howard County branch since 1995, said members of the Baltimore-based NAACP recruited him to run for the position.

"I felt I was able and capable to lead the state conference into the 21st century," he said.

Odoms, a deacon at First Baptist Church of Guilford and a state representative of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, said he hopes to build partnerships with other organizations, including churches and community groups.

He is drafting a 13-page plan of action he intends to distribute to the branch leaders at their first meeting, Dec. 18 in Annapolis. It includes details of issues he intends to address, including affirmative action, education, voter participation and economic development. Urging participation in the 2000 census is among his top priorities.

"It's very important for our people to be part of the count when it comes to redistricting, voting and receiving federal and state funds," he said. "I'd like to create a big awareness for all people. We need to be counted so we get our fair share."

Hall, who also is a national board member and branch president in Prince George's County, added that the branch will scrutinize police-involved shootings of African-Americans throughout the state.

"In Prince George's County, we are mirroring Baltimore City on this," she said. "It's repeated incidents, and it's happening all over."

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