Live Oak —
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is back in business in Suwannee County after holding the inactive status for about three years. For the branch to remain active, it must have a roster of at least 50 members active at all times. After a membership drive, the group held a meeting to elect new officers, and it became official that the NAACP is back.
Officers who were elected to serve two year terms are: Lesley White Sr., president; Larry Jelks, first vice president; Lee Ann Charlton, second vice president; Alonzo Philmore, secretary; Valerie Philmore, assistant secretary; Stefan Blue, treasurer; and Pauline Tooten, assistant treasurer.
According to the NAACP, their mission is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.
Philmore said one of the major misconceptions that people have about the organization is that the NAACP is just for black people.
“We’re not here just to help black people, we’re here to help anyone,” Philmore said. “People just assume it’s just for black people, but we’re are a civil rights organization for everyone.”
Philmore said that in the early days of the NAACP, if a man served as president of the organization, their life would be threatened or they would be beaten. So they chose white women to serve as president.
“People get the impression that we are not inclusive and that we are not a diverse organization,” Blue said. “In September, we went to the Florida State Conference. Anyone who attended that meeting can see how diversified the organization is.”
Philmore said back in the early 90s, African Americans who were employed by the county complained about a “white only” toilet at a county barn. Philmore said that employees who were white, allegedly signed a document admitting to having a segregated restroom, which caused them to lose their jobs. However, the NAACP represented the white men and in return, they were able to return to work with compensation for their time off, according to Philmore.
“We are here for fairness,” Philmore said. “Once you point out the problem, most people are quick to fix it. But sometimes you have to take it a bit further.”
Since December, the organization has handed over a dozen civil rights complaints. The majority of the complaints have been resolved.
“If anyone has any concerns, we encourage them to bring their complaints to a meeting. We will do our best to allow the person to remain anonymous as we submit inquiries. We hope to help individuals come to an understanding of what fairness is.”
Even though the organization wasn’t active until December, the people still had a defense.
“I am retired, and I saw Lesley White Sr. and Stefan out there defending civil rights, fighting the battles themselves. I decided it was time for me to get up and start fighting,” Philmore said. “Anybody whose rights have been violated, it’s our job to defend them.”
Philmore said all the NAACP members are volunteers.
“All of us here are volunteers. None of us are compensated for our time. We all do this because we care about people’s rights. In fact, we have to spend our own money to make this happen,” Philmore said.
People often get the impression that the NAACP is a “behind closed doors” organization, White said. He said meetings are open to the public and anyone is welcome to attend.
The NAACP meets every first and third Monday, at Triumph Church at 7 p.m. The NAACP also participates in community events. Last December, the organization donated $200 in gift cards to Christian Mission in Action for their toy drive.
Jelks said he wants everyone to know that the NAACP is an organization for the people. “We believe in fairness for all.”