LIMA — In an attempt to remake the Lima chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Ohio Conference NAACP will host an organizational meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday at Grace Church Worldwide Ministries.
Dayton Unit NAACP President Derrick Foward dispelled rumors that the Lima unit had folded, but said the group has been largely inactive and an attempt is being made to rejuvenate the local unit. Former Lima Unit President Jason Upthegrove left the post in December 2012 and the local unit has been largely non-functional since.
“Jason was a great leader and it was a shame to lose him,” Foward said. “They didn’t have a new election and it has just set dormant. Jason served honorably and we will miss his leadership. He was a breath of fresh air and a go-getter.”
Foward said it was important to get the unit back in circulation again because many complaints have been fielded from the Lima area between the Dayton and Toledo units ever since Upthegrove stepped down.
“The roles and responsibilities of each position will be discussed,” Foward said. “This will set the stage for an election.”
Foward said the NAACP anticipates a special election in May and plans to get the Lima area back into the regular election schedule in November. Elections for local, state and national groups are held every two years.
“The NAACP is not what some people think,” Foward said. “What a lot of people understand about it, they see on television. The NAACP is for anybody who cares or is concerned about civil rights for all Americans. It is for people of all races or colors.”
Foward said they are hoping for a big turnout at the meeting, hoping Lima area residents are willing to step up and take leadership roles. He said the NAACP is looking for well-qualified people to step into roles including president, three vice-presidents, secretary, assistant secretary, treasurer, assistant treasurer and executive committee members.
“We need people in Lima who are ready to step up,” Foward said.
Foward said the many complaints fielded by the Dayton and Toledo units have spurred the need to reestablish the Lima unit. He said common complaints that have been fielded the last two years have included lack of hiring in school districts, county and city offices in Allen County, lack of large construction contracts to minority contractors and job opportunities.
“There are no African-American judges in Allen County,” Foward said. “We have heard reports that there are less than five African-American employees between the courthouse, the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office. We have heard that racial profiling exists in searches, traffic stops and shoplifting charges. We need the NAACP in Lima to monitor these things.”
Foward said the NAACP requires a minimum of 50 people to maintain a local unit, and likes to have 100 or more members. The annual fee for membership is $30.
“The people of Lima have called for help,” Foward said. “We are looking for people to take the charge.”
Foward said that from the NAACP’s foundation in 1909 until 1976 that all of the presidents of the organization had been white.
“This is an organization for people of all races that want equality,” he said.
Upthegrove said he left the organization because he felt that leadership positions were not meant to be longtime positions.
“Its not supposed to be a lifelong commitment,” Upthegrove said. “It is an organization that is in constant need of new energy. I felt I had put my time in and it was time to move on. I had to step away so I could focus on things with myself and my family.”
However, Upthergrove praised the attempt to rejuvenate the local chapter.
“It is critical because of its functions,” Upthegrove said. “It is a proactive orgaization that focuses on voter advocacy, diversity, employment, political action and many other areas. I believe we would not have had the first African-American president if it wasn’t for the NAACP. It is good to have new leadership.”