ST. PETERSBURG — After being closed for a year, the reorganized St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP is up and running again and last Sun., Nov. 15 the organization’s elected officials were formally sworn in at Greater Mt. Zion AME Church.
“We are back!” boomed the Rev. Dr. Robert Harrison, also the branch’s first vice president, during his invocation at the meeting, “and we are here to do things that may not have ever been done before in the history of the NAACP! That is our goal; that is our mission!”
In September 2014, the national office closed the branch down because an audit unveiled violations of policies, including expenditures not approved by the branch’s executive committee and checks that were cashed with only one signature, a violation of NAACP policy.
After the Rev. Dr. Vikki Gaskin-Butler read passages from Scripture, Second Vice President Corey Givens, Jr. spoke about the case of local woman Constance Bailey, who believes she has been discriminated against by the owners of her townhome. A graduate of the University of South Florida, Bailey became an educator in the Pinellas County school system and served five years in the U.S. Army. Yet her education, work history and service to her country have not stopped her from being harassed, Givens, Jr. explained. She has found notes on her car saying she is parked too far back of the curb, notes criticizing her for playing music too loudly, and even dead fish deposited in front of her house. She has also received a notice that her lease will not be renewed.
Feeling unfairly persecuted, she appealed to the local branch of the NAACP for help.
“It is Ms. Bailey’s belief that she is being discriminated against because she is a black female, elderly and most importantly, a disabled veteran,” Givens, Jr. said. “The NAACP is actively involved in facilitating her personal justice.”
This ceremony is an opportunity for the executive committee and the members at large to introduce themselves to the community, Givens, Jr. added. But more importantly, he said, this ceremony serves as a reminder to our community that Bailey’s story, along with many other stories, is plagues within our community.
“We must ensure that injustice is not tolerated, therefore the St. Petersburg Branch 5130 is revived, reunited and recommitted to the cause!” Givens, Jr. exclaimed.
Mistress of ceremonies Sheila Scott Griffin then led everyone in a pledge, which included words from the organization’s mission statement: “I am committed to ensuring a society which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination on any basis.”
After all officials in the executive committee took the oath of office, the Rev. Kenneth Irby delivered a rousing unity message, in which he urged everyone to work together. He paraphrased the immortal words of Frederick Douglass, stating that if there is no struggle, there is no progress.
Harry Harvey appealed to everyone on hand to become members, stating that when locals become members here they’re not only helping St. Petersburg but Ferguson, Mo. and “all the places that need assistance.” He added that areas in the country still exist that is in the same predicament as in the early 1960s, before the Civil Rights Movement.
“It’s still there,” Harvey averred.
During her closing remarks, President Maria L. Scruggs honored her high school principal Lee Benjamin, who provided Scruggs with tutelage and guidance.
“What was important was having somebody who could not only build the support of black students, but build the support of all students,” Scruggs attested. She added: “He was always pushing me…pushing all of us to be better than what we were and that’s the fight and the journey that we’re trying to continue in this NAACP.”
Scruggs noted that though the officials of the St. Pete branch 5130 of the NAACP had only been elected less than 90 days ago, they had already held successful executive meetings, have drafted and approved a 120-day work plan and have hosted a successful candidate forum, among other things.
“We’re revived, we’re reunited, and most of all we are recommitted to the mission of the NAACP!” Scruggs said.
St. Petersburg Officers
Maria L. Scruggs, President, Rev. Dr. Robert Harrison, First Vice President, Corey Givens, Jr., Second Vice President, Lydia Brown, Secretary, Tammara T. Anderson, Assistant Secretary, William Puller, Treasurer, Frank Wells, Assistant Treasurer
Executive Committee At-Large
Brian Battaglia, Redwood Braxton, Gordon Chernecky, Chico Cromartie, Joseph Cummings, Jabaar Edmond, Shelia Scott Griffin, April Hornsleth, Poul Hornsleth, Cassandra Jackson, Natalie Jackson-Fuller, Ted Lockhart, Richard Love, John Mavros, Darryl Rouson, Samantha Richardson, Nick Wright
NAACP Committee Chairs
Denise Ford, Education, William Puller, Finance, Paul Hendricks, Housing, Harry Harvey, Membership, Erika Lopez-Zwolski, Political Action, Larnell Tony King, Media Relations, Beatrice Morris, Women in NAACP, Lewis Stephens, Jr., Youth Works