It’s a new year, and the local chapter of the nation’s oldest civil-rights organization will undergo some new changes.
The Youngstown chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has been a presence in the Mahoning Valley since 1919.
The chapter has fought against discrimination in housing, the work force and in public venues.
I met recently with Herb Williams, the local chapter’s secretary, and Joseph Hightower, parliamentarian and executive board member.
First, the chapter will be looking for new quarters. It is now located on Market Street, on the second floor of the former Stackhouse Oldsmobile dealership.
Hightower explained that a major building tenant is leaving, and the chapter likely will have to move when its lease expires.
The emphasis this year is to focus specifically on future hopes and aspirations of area youths.
Hightower said the chapter wants to be a conduit for information on jobs in the community.
That is a particular concern for young people who sincerely are trying to find work in the Mahoning Valley.
The chapter also will have monthly meetings with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to ensure that any complaints about discrimination in hiring are properly processed.
Hightower said the chapter also wants to be “more involved in community issues.”
“There’s a lot of conflict in our community, and we want to be a part of solving that conflict,” he said.
Williams and Hightower explained the chapter once had 50 to 60 people involved in handling myriad duties, especially during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
Today, that number has dwindled to about 10.
In fact, Williams and Hightower, who are both retired, act as the chapter’s chief investigators when various complaints are made. They draw no salary and gladly volunteer their services.
The chapter began becoming more proactive in 2010.
Last year, the local chapter was the host group for a home-foreclosure seminar at Choffin Career and Technical Center in Youngstown.
The forum was conducted in partnership with Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, a national agency designed specifically to address the needs of individuals facing the loss of their property.
The NAACP chapter also collaborated with Youngstown State University and several civic organizations, including sororities, to prepare local residents for a regular census test.
The chapter wants to continue building on that foundation and increasing its membership.
In years past, the chapter worked with local churches to institute membership drives. That has fallen off in recent years, but Hightower said it will be a point of emphasis in 2011.
Williams said the chapter can always use volunteer help. If you are interested, contact him at 330-793-7602, or by e-mail at email@example.com,