The NAACP could be a vital engine of equality and justice in 21st century Baltimore. You can help.

Over the past year and in recent weeks, reports in the news may have left some wondering if the local Baltimore City branch of the NAACP is still relevant, and if so, if it has the capacity to provide the advocacy that is needed in Baltimore. The current American political climate puts in plain view the fact that the NAACP's work is unfinished. By protecting democracy, enhancing equity and increasing civic engagement, the NAACP can help Baltimoreans to democratize housing development, public transit planning and public policy in all aspects of civic life so that no resident of the city is left marginalized, overlooked or vulnerable.

The truth about the Baltimore branch of the NAACP is that the organization has a meaningful opportunity to rebuild after a tumultuous period of turnover and to become an effective 21st century social justice organization. The national NAACP has done its part to boost the Baltimore branch by modeling what civic engagement and social justice advocacy look like in the digital age and by holding local leadership accountable to sound management principles.

Now, the Baltimore branch must increase its membership and choose ethical leaders who will focus on the people's business. The branch must consistently speak truth to power and provide solutions to the many justice and equity issues facing our city. We need the local NAACP to lead in the struggle to ensure that every Baltimore child receives a free, high quality, equitably-funded education and that all Baltimoreans have equal access to post secondary, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Together we can build the local branch's capacity to fight for equal access to affordable, high-quality health care, and to eliminate racially disparate health outcomes. We can address police violence and racially motivated policing strategies that result in the incarceration of too many African Americans. We can advocate for the U.S. Department of Justice’s consent decree with the city to be implemented and effective in increasing police accountability. A strong local branch can provide thought leadership and demonstrate how to dismantle violence ecosystems while building peace and economic security that allows every citizen in every neighborhood to feel safe in their community.

For over 100 years, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has played a vital role in protecting marginalized and vulnerable communities from white supremacy and from violations of their constitutional rights. For decades the NAACP has labored to create fair playing fields and has pushed the United States to become a more just and democratic country. The mission of the NAACP remains to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.

Nationally, the NAACP is expanding the presence of youth at all levels of leadership and advocacy, and the local branch should follow suit. Baltimore's talented youth have much to add to the branch's work, and young people all over the city stand to benefit from the local unit's efforts to hear, see, recruit, engage and train them in the branch, youth councils and college chapters.

The truth about the Baltimore branch of the NAACP is that with the support and full participation of justice minded people, the branch has tremendous potential to positively impact Baltimore and ensure equal opportunity and civil rights protections for all residents of our great city. If you are justice minded and ready to be the change that you want to see, then now is the time to join the NAACP's Baltimore branch.

Rev. Kobi Little is a life member of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP and as the political action chair for the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP he is responsible for the organization's advocacy in the Maryland General Assembly. The views expressed here are his personal opinions. His email is naacpmscpac@gmail.com. Twitter: @kobilittle.

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