Pittsburgh NAACP: What are the issues that matter the most?

NAACP President
(Photo by J.L. Martello)

If you’ve been wondering what the NAACP Pittsburgh Branch is up to, that’s understandable—because while the organization has a new website, it is not fully functional yet. So, for now, the best way to find out what the branch is doing is to call or visit.
The chapter’s website, www.pghnaacp.org, looks very professional, the tabs are responsive, and its pages load quickly. But you’ll notice that beyond a statement from the national office about its voting positions for the recent midterm elections, the site hasn’t been consistently updated with the latest information on the Pittsburgh branch.
But immediately following its Nov. 13 elections, Pittsburgh NAACP President Richard Stewart Jr. told the New Pittsburgh Courier that just because some webpages are empty doesn’t mean the branch isn’t focused on those priorities heading into 2019. And the election results should help with that.
“We have wholesome people on the board and some new folks coming in,” he said.
While Stewart, 1st Vice President Johnnie Miott, Secretary Gwendolyn Young, and Treasurer Morton Stanfield Jr. were reelected to their same positions, two previously vacant positions were filled: Rev. Regina Ragin-Dykes is now 2nd vice president and Billy Joe Jordon now fills the 3rd vice president slot.
There are also two new additions to the branch executive committee, with Charlene McAbee and K. Chase Patterson joining re-elected members Angelina Bryant and Walter Bentley II.

“Economic development, police accountability, jobs, youth empowerment—there’s a host of issues,” said Stewart. “And I am committed to working with whoever I have to, trying to get this violence down in the streets—working with police departments, which I am doing now, trying to get a handle on what’s troubling our youth and getting the guns out of our neighborhoods.”
When asked how an all-volunteer organization could take on those issues, plus advocating for more low-income housing, community health, prison reform, and putting more African Americans in corporate and nonprofit leadership, Stewart said they will just have to, because that’s the job.
“We’ll have to roll up our sleeves and get busy,” he said. “My message to the community is—come and join us. We need help. Purchase a membership and get involved.”
Stewart said he will be interviewing people to serve on specific committees, and that if board members think they’re just going to sit there, they are mistaken.
“Those days are gone. We need people who will get their hands dirty. If I can run up and down these streets, so can you,” he said. “We’re going to be about the business of doing more work.”
As soon as everyone is sworn in in January, Stewart said he will appoint new committee chairs, and he will continue to work on increasing membership.
“We won an award at the national convention for our membership work—we outdid Philadelphia,” he said. “Still I’d like to get 50-100 people in here next year.”
Stewart said that’s one reason the branch has its critics, saying the local NAACP isn’t “doing anything,” because the branch isn’t calling for marches and protests as much as in the past. But that is by design. A lot of the work the local NAACP is doing is behind the scenes.
“That’s the directive from the national office,” Stewart told the Courier in an exclusive interview, Nov. 26. “We go in and talk to people first and say, ‘Look, we are aware of X, how are you going to handle it?’ Because we can work out arrangements that lead to more hiring or address a problem that way rather than trying to embarrass them with a crowd and creating a lot of animosity before we even talk.”
Another reason might be the lack of current information on the local NAACP’s website, but Stewart said that’s one of the tribulations of a volunteer organization.
“We’re going to need someone who can devote the time to uploading the information and maintaining it,” he said. “It’s vital to have that social media presence to get our message out, especially to younger people.”
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