The Hopkinsville-Christian County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is prepared to have its first official election in 18 years this November.

According to Javanta Dawson, chairman of the political action committee for the local NAACP, “There has not been an election that we can document since 2002,” after going through an audit of records for the local chapter.

Due to the lack of an election, the Rev. John Banks has served in the role of president for many years. According to New Era archives, he was first elected in 1983, just one year after joining the organization.

Banks told the New Era in 2018 that having active members had been an issue with electing new officers. He also couldn’t recall the last election.

Dawson said renewed interest in the chapter and help from the state NAACP has put them on track to elect new officers.

“We have finally reached a milestone to have an election,” she said. “We’re in motion.”

According to a Sept. 10 letter sent to NAACP members in good standing, a general membership meeting took place Sept. 21 via Zoom to elect a nominating committee. Dawson said approximately 20 members attended, including Kentucky NAACP president Marcus Ray who attended to “make sure everything went according to the bylaws,” Dawson said.

“There are members who are truly concerned about the mission of the NAACP, and with the climate of our society and world, the NAACP needs to have a strong voice,” she continued. “One of the things that we saw, if we’re going to be about something, it’s got to be something legitimate.”

According to naacp.org, city-level branches of the NAACP are supposed to localize the mission of the state and national organization: “to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination,”

There are several committees that members can volunteer to be a part of, such as education, civic engagement, health, public safety and criminal justice, economic stability and youth engagement, Banks noted.

Another Zoom meeting is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 19 for the nominating committee to report any nominations by petition and to select an election supervisory committee.

The election of new officers and members at-large will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 16 via National Polling Program, the letter states.

Dawson said it’s possible the national organization will provide a way for members to vote virtually.

“Right now the national organization is in the process of negotiating the software packets that allow members from coast to coast to be allowed to vote electronically,” she said.

Dawson went on to say that the nominating committee is now “actively scanning” the community for nominations for various offices, including president, secretary, treasurer and so on.

“We know that the local NAACP needs a change,” Dawson said. “We, the members that are committed to the NAACP constitution and bylaws, have been diligent in trying to get members to come back and new members to come in, and it’s working.

“Our goal is to get members in place so that we can have a voice and so that we can have an election and move onward and forward,” she said.

All members whose membership is current as of May 1, 2020, may be nominated for an office or as an at-large member of the executive committee, the letter states.

Additionally, in order to sign a nominating petition, that member must be current 30 days prior to the October meeting.

Along with electing new officers, Dawson said the chapter will educate the membership on the NAACP mission.

“We are an information portal, we’re not made up of lawyers or activists, but we have access to the experts,” she said.

Additionally, Dawson hopes the chapter can come together to highlight local black history.

“We want to do some historical markers in the city,” she said. “Like Brooks Hospital, there’s never even been a historical marker initiated. We have a lot of trailblazers right here in Hopkinsville that need to be documented for our children to see.”

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