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Carroll's NAACP finds a community-building opportunity in Westminster's Memorial Day parade

Despite having a presence in the community for years, it wasn't until 2013 that Carroll County's NAACP chapter participated in the Westminster Memorial Day Parade for the first time, and this year's event was only the second for the local civil rights organization.

"It's really great to show the community that African Americans were part of that portion of American history," said Jean Lewis, president of the Carroll County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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Lewis said the group was unable to join the parade in 2014, and members expressed their disappointment at missing the event because of the positive experience they had in 2013.

"When we came through, people were just clapping and waving," she said. The NAACP float features flags from every military branch as well as the flag honoring prisoners of war and missing in action. In addition, the U.S. and Maryland flags were displayed.

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"I think we did a good job of representing everyone," Lewis said.

NAACP members have served in every war since the organization's founding in 1909, according to Pamela Zappardino, first vice president of Carroll's NAACP chapter.

"We have a lot of fallen heroes who were members," Zappardino said.

According to Lewis, African American service members have not always been recognized for their service, so participating in the parade was a good opportunity to change that.

"I think for the African American community, you could see the pride on their faces," she said of the 2013 parade.

A first for this year's parade was the participation of students from the Silver Oak Academy, a facility for at-risk youth that operates in Keymar. They marched as part of the NAACP contingent.

"It's so exciting to see the kids out here with us today," Zappardino said.

Silver Oak senior Rykeen Richardson, of Washington D.C., said he has attended some NAACP meetings and was glad to participate in the parade.

"It just shows that we are needed in the community," he said.

Junior Chris Washington, also of Washington D.C., is the grandchild of a Vietnam veteran. He said he enjoyed the opportunity and was having a good time as he and his classmates waited for the parade to begin.

Charles Harrison, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, said he wanted to involve and highlight youth in the parade.

"I'd like to get them more involved and get kids in general more involved," he said of the Silver Oak students.

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Harrison drove a convertible ahead of the NAACP float and invited his granddaughter and children and grandchildren of other members of the organization to ride with him.

"I just wanted to show minority children participating in larger society," he said.

Harrison said he and his wife, school board member Virginia Harrison, have prioritized children and particularly bringing a diverse staff of educators and administrators to Carroll schools.

"These kids need to see people who look like them in positions and involved," he said.

Harrison said he hopes participating in events like the parade will increase the visibility of the NAACP in Carroll. A past president of the organization, Harrison said he prioritized making community connections.

"There's still bastions of resistance to diversity in the county," he said.

Carroll's NAACP meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Non-Profit Building located at 255 Clifton Blvd. For more information, visit carrollnaacp.com or call 410-751-7667.

410-857-7898

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