ST. PETERSBURG – Today, June 11, Maria L. Scruggs will end her service to the St. Petersburg Branch NAACP in the role of president. She was elected president in Sept. 2015 and has twice been reelected. By NAACP bylaws, an officer is required to resign upon qualifying to run for elected office.
Months ago, Scruggs announced her candidacy for Ken Welch’s term-limited District 7 County Commission seat, for which she qualified to run today.
Scruggs’ leadership of the St. Petersburg Branch NAACP was challenged but she successfully led the branch’s rebuilding after the national headquarters’ sudden closure of the branch in 2014. She, with supportive co-officers and several committed regular members, focused on shoring up the branch’s credibility with an emphasis on governance, fiscal accountability and managing the mission of the organization.
Her extensive background, training and education prepared her for the task. The St. Petersburg Branch NAACP proudly notes that of the 60 plus executive committee meetings in nearly five years, the branch has had to cancel only one executive committee and one general membership meeting. Both times those cancellations were due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scruggs is often called on by other branch presidents and asked how she and her team achieved that when many branches struggled to achieve quorums to handle the business for their local branches. Her advice is that in the 21st century, leaders of any organization must understand the skills and competencies needed to run effective meetings and to ensure that a governance structure is in place that is about the organization’s mission and one not to be used to build a kingdom for the president or other officers.
Under Scruggs’ leadership, the local branch has achieved several accomplishments. Records and reports reflect the attainment of demonstrated excellence, consistency, fairness, and responsiveness as the cornerstones supporting and sustaining the branch’s successful Freedom Fund events held annually in honor of Juneteenth.
The events have gone from very formal to very casual but the aim has always been to host the annual Freedom Fund in a venue that would allow the NAACP and its members to support black-owned businesses. Given that no such venue exists in Pinellas County, the branch’s events have always been held outside.
It was always the branch’s goal for the idea to catch on and, given the number of churches, masonic organizations, social clubs, and Greek letter organizations in the city, the hope is that the idea would result in organizations pooling their resources to build an event venue in South St. Petersburg.
So far, that dream has not materialized, but the members have not lost sight of that goal. The branch’s efforts have resulted in spending over $100,000 with black-owned, minority and small business owners in south St. Petersburg.
Another major accomplishment for the branch has been its successful advocacy of the Phyllis Wheatley Rise to Read Campaign in response to what Scruggs and her team members have deemed the civil rights “atrocity,” of the 21st century.
After more than 40 years of “desegregation” leading to resegregation, and black citizens paying close to $50 million in school taxes, more than 75 percent of black children attending Pinellas County Schools are NOT reading proficiently.
While Scruggs runs for a county commission seat, she is in no way relinquishing her active involvement as a sustaining life member. She maintains that one sign of an effective leader is the person who can follow well as well as lead.
Scruggs expressed excitement about working with 1st Vice President Nick Wright, who will step into the role of President once she steps down. Their plan is to have a seamless transition particularly given the work to be done in light of the police murder of Minnesotan George Floyd, an action that may yet portend danger for African Americans in St. Petersburg given the checkered history of the St. Petersburg Police Department. NAACP members will never forget Tyrone Lewis.
On Thursday, June 11 at 6:30 p.m., the St. Petersburg and Upper Pinellas County Branches of the NAACP will co-host a virtual community conversation entitled FACES OF RACISM. Scruggs contends that this country can’t afford to go back to business as usual.
“Our past indicates that once the protests are over well-meaning individuals are confused or lost wondering what they can do to squash the vestiges of systemic racism within our communities,” Scruggs said.
FACES OF RACISM will feature experts within their respective fields putting a face on the practices and policies that lead to systemic racism. The all-star lineup includes:
- Goliath Davis, former deputy mayor and St. Petersburg police chief, will be putting a face on the policies and practices within policing and law enforcement.
- Kesha Major-Flantroy, a product of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County Schools, and now a well-known obstetrician in Mississippi will put a face on the practices and policies within healthcare.
- Michelle Rayner-Goolsby, famed civil rights attorney, will paint the faces of racism in the criminal justice system,
- Nicole Carr, Pinellas County School Board member, will paint a face on the policies and practices within education.
The hope is that both NAACP branches will experience an uptick toward their 1,000 membership goals. The branches will be armed with specific policies and practices their respective branches can organize around to dismantle and ultimately end systemic racism in our own back yards.
The public is encouraged to participate in the community conversation. Click on the link below to join the conversation starting at 6:30 p.m. tonight.
Meeting ID: 837 3076 4942