Last month, new NAACP President Kweisi Mfume called on people across the country to recruit more young members to revive the nation's oldest but troubled civil rights organization.
Yesterday, Annapolis Alderman Carl O. Snowden and his Martin Luther King Committee helped 500 area black students join the Anne Arundel chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People an event that was part of the organization's largest ever membership drive in the county.
In a gathering of community leaders and students at the historic Mount Moriah African Episcopal Methodist Church in Annapolis, Mr. Snowden challenged businesses, churches, activists and elected officials across the United States to recruit more youths into the organization.
"Unless thousands of youth join across the country, the organization will not survive," said Mr. Snowden, a long-time civil rights activist.
He added, "We want our young people to be card-carrying members of the NAACP and realize that the hard-fought gains of the '50s and 1960s are under assault now. They must be willing to take up the torch."
The organization has about 500,000 members nationally, he said. But, he added, "That's a drop in the bucket when you consider that African-Americans make up 30 million people in this country. We can all do more."
A donation of $1,500 to pay for a one-year membership for each of the new members ranging in ages from newborn to 21 was made possible by proceeds from the eighth annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner.
Mr. Snowden said he hoped the new memberships would inspire others to help rid the organization of its $3.5 million deficit.
He said new members would help to revitalize the group after the much-publicized infighting of recent years.
For the youth, it was an opportunity to be a part of the new NAACP and a chance to be active in the community.
Although youth memberships are only $3 a year, many students said the already paid fee was an added incentive to join.
The local chapter will aim to help the new members start the Anne Arundel County Youth Council, a branch of the county adult chapter, and offer them mentoring, leadership and tutoring programs.
"They call us the lost generation," said Joy S. Dobson, 20, president of Anne Arundel Community College's Black Student Union and one of the 500 who joined the NAACP yesterday. "But I don't believe that's true. If someone is there like the NAACP to give us some direction and guidance, we can become the best African-American men and women possible.
"I think some young people think the organization is a thing of the past or that it's something that can't help us," she said. "I'm personally excited about being a part of it because I think the group is changing and that more young people need to be involved with that change."
Representing the national organization was 2nd Vice President Harrison N. Johnson, who said the new members were vital to the group's future.
"I'm very excited to see all the youth joining in," Mr. Johnson said, "because this is the future of our organization, our backbone. Without our youth, we die. Together, we will make a proud and grand difference."
Pub Date: 3/13/96