St. Petersburg Branch NAACP: Living up to its promise

Maria Scruggs

BY MARIA L. SCRUGGS, President, St. Petersburg Branch

Transparency, integrity, accountability, professionalism and service have served as the foundation for the work the St. Petersburg Branch NAACP has embarked upon for the three years since its reorganization.

The branch was ordered closed in 2014 and in a hurried 2015 election, I, Maria L. Scruggs, was elected president. Utilizing my strong governance and organizational experience, I worked with a team of folks who were committed to the mission of the NAACP.

Together the leadership and members of the St. Petersburg Branch made significant strides in furthering the work of the NAACP. Examples of the work and accomplishments include:

  • Being direct advocates for African-American women being released from emergency shelters
  • Advocating and acquiring a successful resolution for a disabled veteran being evicted from her housing
  • Advocating for several children who had issues within the Pinellas County School system
  • Hosted two successful Freedom Fund celebrations within the community; each event yielding more than 500 guests
  • The branch has directly supported more than 30 small and minority-owned businesses within south St. Petersburg

In April, the branch invited Dr. Noliwe Rooks, distinguished author and Cornell University professor, to facilitate two discussions on how the community could come together and do something more aggressively in closing the achievement gap. The group recognized the NAACP Legal Defense Fund was fighting a great fight in the courts, but that battle could potentially last another 30 years.

The sessions resulted in the community focusing on teaching our children to read proficiently and on mental health. Since April, the branch has worked tirelessly to build a coalition that believes that it is time for the African-American community to stand and take sole responsibility for the fact that too many of our children aren’t reading proficiently.

The St. Petersburg Branch NAACP has made it clear in accepting this responsibility and not accessing blame. We have approached the solution from the belief that if the stakeholders placed their adult agendas aside and focused solely on the goal of ensuring our children could read proficiently by 2021 and beyond, we will have all of the resources within our community to right this ship!

Those that have put in the work have been hurt and offended by a small group of individuals within the community who have decided they want to “take over the NAACP.” The most painful of all is not one of these individuals has made an effort to do the work over the last three years since the reorganization.

The Trump-like tactics have been used to misrepresent the work and more importantly to discredit my leadership. We will not be moved. Taking orders from the work of Jesus, we have acknowledged that even the “perfect one” was lied on, betrayed, taunted and ultimately killed. In spite of the negativity, we have continued to do the work we were called to do!

Local elections scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 27 have been postponed. They will now be conducted by the National Office of the NAACP at a later date.

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