On Nov. 18, members of the Prince George’s County branch of the NAACP elected its 2016-2018 officers and executive committee. They are planning a year of aggressive and progressive action on issues pertinent to Black residents.

Bob Ross, branch president since 2011, was re-elected, with the first vice president as Eben Smith, Amity Pope as second vice president, Secretary Valerie Miller, Assistant Secretary Juanita Miller, Treasurer Leigh Williams and Assistant Treasurer Jermaine Shoatz. With the election of the at-large members of the executive committee, Ross told the AFRO that the branch is ready to fight for the rights of Prince Georgians.

Bob Ross is the president of the Prince George's County NAACP.  (Courtesy Photo)

Bob Ross is the president of the Prince George’s County NAACP. (Courtesy Photo)

“With the new Trump administration coming to Washington next year, we want to see what the impact will be at the local level,” Ross said. “We want to see if his education secretary pick will try to mandate school choice and we are very concerned about his treasury secretary who played a key role in the creation of the housing crisis of the last decade.

The Prince George’s County branch was founded 81 years ago and played a key role in the settling of Blacks in the county during the 1960s-1990s. The branch helped to facilitate school desegregation in the 1970s and ’80s and fought police brutality during that time as well.

“We are also going to be focused on local issues such as affordable housing, preventing foreclosures, improving the school system, and advocating for economic development,” Ross said.

June White Dillard, a former president of the branch and a member of its executive committee, told the AFRO that she constantly responds to people who think that the NAACP’s time has passed.

“That is a myth, it is completely wrong,” Dillard said. “The election of Donald Trump as president and his picks for the cabinet indicate that every person of color should be ready to combat discrimination.”

Dillard is also active with the Maryland NAACP as the leader of its legal redress committee. She said that the branch will be concerned with issues more than individual civil rights matters.

“We will work to make sure that the new county hospital is built,” she said. “We will explore why there is no economic development around Metro stops in the county as well as affordable housing. We recently started a veterans committee to address their problems and we will demand real concessions from developers when they want to set up in the county.”

Ross said he is working to get young adults and college students more active in the branch. “We have a young first vice president Eben Smith and he works hard and is dedicated,” Ross said. “There are branches of the NAACP at Bowie State University and the University of Maryland, College Park, and we are working to get a branch at the Prince George’s Community College. We have to get young people active so we can move our branch forward.”

David Grogan is a new member of the branch and a life member of the NAACP. Grogan told the AFRO that the “NAACP is needed” but has concerns. “I think the leaders of the branch and the national office have to explain what the purpose is and the mission of the NAACP is,” Grogan said. “The average Black person doesn’t know what the NAACP is doing.”

Joe Brice is the president of the Prince George’s County Civic Federation and said he’s not impressed with the branch’s activities, recently. “To me, they are more flash than substance,” Brice told the AFRO. “I see them going after the wrong issues. For example, they will hold a press conference after an African American is shot by a policeman without doing their research. It may not be the prettiest thing but they need to research things to the end.”

Ross, like Dillard, has heard criticism that the branch and the national organization is out of touch or ineffective. Ross said that type of criticism is counterproductive. “We as Blacks need to stop tearing each other down,” he said. “That’s what happened in the 2014 governor’s race when Anthony Brown lost to Larry Hogan because Black people didn’t support him. We have to support our people and that is what the NAACP is about.”