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June 17, 2002

Local NAACP Branch Shall Keep Moving Forward

Derek Shackelford

The other day while riding the Metro, I noticed few passengers aboard the train. This drew comparisons to the startup of the Frederick County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

When the Branch started in 1934 to confront and combat racism, civil rights violations, and discrimination, it began with the insight and vision of nine individuals who stepped out of the comfort zone. The issues confronted then still exist today no matter how much we try to gloss it over, cover it up, or place a coat of paint over it.

As the Metro ride continued as picked up speed. This reminded me of Lord D. Nickens' tenure as branch president.

Mr. Nickens, a living legend had audacity peppered with tenacity to fight the good fight of faith. His life was continuously threatened during the attempts to secure equality for African-Americans. He looked evil in the eye, reminding one of the Old Negro Spiritual "Ain't Nobody Going to Turn Me Around."

Mr. Nickens marched in the face of adversity to face criticism, racism, and threats to lead the NAACP to greater heights. The activism of the branch under his leadership led to inclusion of African-Americans as patrons of the public library, The Weinberg Center, and the public school system. Mr. Nickens' leadership is quite remarkable. Yet, this day and age calls for - in my estimation - a monument in his honor. The next new public school should be named the Lord D. Nickens' elementary, middle, or high school.

Metro rides do get bumpy sometimes and this could be compared to the tenure of Ms. Charlene Edmonds as president of the local NAACP branch. Ms. Edmonds burst on the scene at the end of Johnny Mac Twine's tenure. She came boldly to challenge the status quo. Some may have disagreed with her methods, but as leaders - and especially black leaders - there are no monolithic people.

In other words, not all African-Americans think alike. Ms. Edmonds was most noted for the investigation of police spying.

No matter whether you like an individual or not, invading one' s privacy is wrong. If the police were following someone, or looking into someone's affairs without probable cause, then this is simply wrong. Whether the person is someone you like or dislike, wrong is wrong and right is right.

The branch now finds itself in the midst of an internal crisis, but this should not be held against the NAACP. No one held the office of president in disregard when Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton disgraced it. Thus, we should hold the people accountable and not the office or organization.

Ms. Edmonds has resigned in the midst of scandal and turmoil, but the business of the branch must go on. After all, the issues are greater than Ms. Edmonds. The NAACP is more than Ms. Edmonds. The NAACP is about those individuals who envisioned equality for all. Let us not focus on the past; let us learn from the past to lead us to a better tomorrow.

As I was continuing on the Metro Ride, the realization hit me that I had not reached my destination, but more people had gotten aboard. This will be like the Frederick County Branch of the NAACP; new passengers will come aboard to seek the same destination.

A famous poet once wrote, "Keep your Eyes on the Prize." A new day is coming in the branch. What is currently happening, we will learn from. But we hold onto the knowledge that "This too shall pass" and we shall keep going.

The issues have not changed and we need to be more diligent to ensure equality for all. We shall keep apace, knowing that we go forward ever and backwards never.

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