New leader is elected at NAACP

Longtime member seen as bringing new energy, focus

December 07, 2008|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to The Sun

After a turbulent two years, the county NAACP chapter has a president-elect who members say will energize the organization and start acting on substantive public policy issues.

Jacqueline Allsup, 60, of Glen Burnie has been a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for more than 20 years and is a member of the executive committee of the Anne Arundel County branch. She will replace interim president Alva Sheppard-Johnson, who took office in March to finish out the two-year term of Wayne Jearld. Jearld was impeached in February by the national civil rights organization for missing meetings.

Democratic County Councilman Daryl Jones campaigned with Allsup when she ran unsuccessfully to be the register of wills in 2006. He described Allsup as a "straight-shooter" who is known to get projects done.

Jones praised Sheppard-Johnson for repairing strained relationships with former members this year. Allsup, however, will be the one to make the chapter more active on social and political issues.

"Alva may have been the hand to steady the ship, but I think Jackie will be the captain to move us forward full throttle," Jones said.

Sheppard-Johnson, who will step down and become secretary of the chapter, said Allsup is an excellent choice because she has been involved in city and county politics.

"It's just a great match for the NAACP," Sheppard-Johnson said.

Allsup ran unopposed for the post. Members elected her Nov. 20 at John Wesley United Methodist Church in Glen Burnie. Allsup will be sworn in for a two-year term at a ceremony from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Arundel Center. She, in turn, will swear in the new executive committee at the event.

Allsup declined to discuss specific plans until she meets for the first time with her new executive committee. She said she plans to capitalize on the energy generated by another president-elect, Barack Obama, to draw in younger members to the national organization, which turns 100 next year.

"One of the first goals is to increase membership and rejuvenate the organization," Allsup said. "I would like to see it [the NAACP] be a frontline organization addressing issues in our community."

Several NAACP members said they expect that Allsup will be able to continue to heal the rifts created by Jearld's leadership. The board of the national civil rights organization voted Jearld out in February after it found that he had violated the chapter's constitution by missing meetings, though members said the real reason was his abrasive leadership style.

The divisiveness and disorganization created within the local NAACP chapter was hard to overcome this year, said Carl Snowden, a lifetime member of the NAACP branch, which was founded in 1945. For example, the branch's annual fundraiser - the fall Freedom Fund banquet - did not happen this year because the group struggled with organizational issues, he said.

"The organization has to find its footing in the year 2009 and hit the ground running," said Snowden, who also is director of the Office of Civil Rights within the state attorney general's office.

Snowden said he believes Allsup will be the one to help steer the organization toward the substantive public policy goals tackled by Jearld's predecessor, Gerald Stansbury. Allsup will have to continue to monitor the 2005 Office of Civil Rights agreement with the Anne Arundel County School System meant to close the minority achievement gap in test scores and graduation rates. Members also will look to Allsup to address "ongoing inequities" in the criminal justice system, such as capital punishment, racial profiling and alleged police brutality, Snowden said. Health issues, such as preventing HIV and AIDS, also are a priority, he said.

Allsup said she hopes to address all of those issues, especially the disparity in test scores among minorities in the county schools. "The gap is closing, but there is still a lot of work to do."

Allsup and Sheppard-Johnson, who is a retired teacher and high school counselor, were able to re-establish the strained relationship with RESPECT Inc., a similar civil rights organization based in Anne Arundel County. John Wilson, the executive director, will join the NAACP's executive committee when Allsup is sworn in.

Wilson, who has known Allsup for eight years, described her as a collaborative leader who will be able to turn around declining membership.

"I'm delighted that she was elected," Wilson said. "After several years of dysfunctionality, the organization is now poised to grow."

JACKIE ALLSUP

Age: 60

Hometown: Glen Burnie

Professional: Associate professor of nursing at Anne Arundel Community College

Education: Associate arts degree, Anne Arundel Community College; bachelor's and master's degrees in nursing, Bowie State University

Community: She has served as vice chairwoman of the Human Relations Commission for the City of Annapolis; on the Unity Day Steering Committee for the AACC Board for Community Diversity; on the county Drug and Alcohol Commission and county Board of License Commission; and on the advisory committee to the county public schools superintendent

Personal: Allsup, who lives in Glen Burnie, has two children and three grandchildren.

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