Prince William NAACP Serving Through Advocacy

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By Olivia Overman

PWLIVING NAACP Logo

Since its inception in 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has grown in strength and membership throughout the United States and globally. Its principal objective, “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination,” is worked toward by the numerous regional and branch offices established throughout the nation and abroad.

Here in Prince William, the branch continues to grow and evolve under the auspices of the newly appointed president, Reverend Karl Brower. Appointed in January 2015, Brower set out his plan for the branch from the beginning to include:

  • collaborating with the county to raise voting awareness among the black community;
  • advancing the agenda of the NAACP in the county by bridging gaps;
  • raising the consciousness of racial disparities; and
  • promoting the equitable civil rights of all human beings.

He also stressed the significance of everyone in the community working together, regardless of race or creed.

As head of an all-volunteer organization, Brower, along with five officers and seven executive committee members, works toward the goals of the PWC NAACP. These are divided into two categories—organizational goals and advocacy goals. “The advocacy goals are guided by our five ‘game changers’ (economics, education, health, public safety and youth education) but tailored for the issues particular to our jurisdiction and executed by
our advocacy committees: education, economic development, criminal justice, political action, labor and industry, housing, youth works and health. Each of these is developing a plan of action for 2016,” said Brower.

Organizational goals of the branch include expanding membership, increasing awareness of the issues being faced in the county, and improving its social media presence.

iStock_000021355977_LargeAdvancement Through Advocacy
“The primary means for the NAACP to further equality is through advocacy, engaging stakeholders—primarily centers of power and impacted communities, but also the general public—to raise awareness (problem, impact, and solutions), to transition parties from awareness to concern and to motivate parties to action. Changing hearts is necessary, but not sufficient. We need to change policies and practices to achieve our advocacy objectives,” said Brower.

Donald Scoggins has been active in the branch for many years. As a member of the PWC NAACP executive committee as well as the education and political action committees, Scoggins hopes to help further the goals of the branch. “I tend to be on the more conservative side, but have grown to feel that if I am going to make a difference, I have to get involved. I want to add another voice,” he said.

One such initiative that has been successful in Prince William has been the initiative to ‘Ban the Box,’ i.e., the Felony Conviction Notification Box. PWC NAACP successfully worked with the Prince William Board of Supervisors to remove the criminal conviction question from employment applications for all county government jobs that don’t immediately require a background check. The resolution passed on October 13 of last year and became effective November 1 when the county removed any questions pertaining to arrests and convictions. This allows those with previous criminal convictions to rebuild their lives by being able to, at least, get past the initial stage of a job application. This was particularly important because “people of color are disproportionately arrested, convicted and
incarcerated, [and]employers’ use of arrest or conviction history has a disparate impact on those communities,” states the Ban the Box campaign in its FAQ.

But the best programs include some planning for what comes afterward. This is where PWC NAACP comes into its own by “evaluating the effectiveness of the program on the hiring of people with convictions by the Prince William government and pursuing the next step to gaining an extension of the ban to government vendors and general employment within Prince William,” said Brower.

Another initiative championed by the Prince William branch is the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce (NVBCC) Black Business Expo. In collaboration with other businesses in the area, the NAACP is looking to increase the percentage of the county’s revenue generated from African-American owned businesses. This initiative will be rolled out throughout 2016 and is an example of collaboration between the PWC NAACP and other organizations around a common objective. “The real benefit of this collaboration will not be the organization of one or two shopping events. The real benefits are the identification of African-American owned businesses and the identification of gaps in services available in our community as entrepreneurial opportunities,” said Brower.

Get Connected, Get Informed, and Get Involved
With a mantra of ‘Get Connected, Get Informed, and Get Involved,’ the branch hopes to get more members actively
involved in one or more of its 21 committees, and if not actively involved, then more aware of the issues being dealt with and the actions being undertaken in the community.

One of the goals of the Prince William branch is to increase membership. “Over the last year we have grown our membership to 331, which is an increase of 35 percent and reduced the number of financially inactive members by 10 percent to 30 percent. In order to provide a sustainable engagement and activity of our 21 standing committees we need more than 1,200 members, with a higher level of member participation. Our goal for 2016 is to increase our membership to 500 and to reduce the number of financially inactive members to 12 percent,” said Brower.

While trying to get younger generations involved in the branch is important, “we also try to help the younger kids in high school. Most recently, branch members met with the school system to discuss expulsion rates and what we can do to help reduce this rate,” Scoggins said.

Moving Forward
With over 2,000 local chapters nationwide, it is easy to get involved with the NAACP at the county level. Members meet at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Manassas, located on South Grant Avenue, but committee members also meet at various locations throughout Prince William during the month.

If you would like to get involved, or become informed about upcoming events organized by the PWC NAACP, please visit their website at pwnaacp.org.

A graduate of American University’s School of Communication, Olivia Overman (ooverman@princewilliamliving.com) is a freelance writer for online and print publications.

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