Refocus. That’s the word Winifred Ann Anderson said best describes the Conway Branch of the NAACP’s major objective for 2019.
“Of course, we will continue with our mission of fighting for equality and against racial injustice, “said Anderson, who is serving her third term as president. “But we’ve faced some challenges in recent times that have caused the organization to lose some of its focus, so we’ve got to regain a sharper focus on the things that are important.”
The things Anderson said are important include closer monitoring of government and public agencies and institutions to ensure they don’t stray from just and fair policies for all people or trample on citizens’ rights.
“We’ve got to monitor school board and county council meetings,” she said. “We’ve got to monitor hiring practices. Of course voter registration and voter education remain critical.”
Anderson added that greater accountability inside and outside of the organization deserves emphasis if the organization is to remain relevant in a changing political, social and economic climate. Not only must the organization hold public and private sector entities and their leaders accountable. But it must also hold its own leaders accountable, she said, adding that’s also where the voter education piece is vital.
“If we don’t hold ourselves accountable, we can’t hold anybody else accountable,” said Anderson, a retired nurse. “We must start with ourselves. That’s also why voter education is so important. We have to work on getting the right people elected to public office, but we have to hold them accountable after they are in office. We can’t just vote in order to say, ‘I voted’, and leave it at that until the next election. There has to be follow-up.”
Though the Conway Branch of the NAACP’s number of life members is one of the largest in the state, membership is down. That will be another focus this year, she said, adding that she believes if the organization becomes more visible and vigilant, membership will increase.
Anderson, who has also served as secretary and treasurer of the Conway branch, said increasing membership is important because membership dues comprise most of branch’s operating budget. The branch does not have large corporate donors as some branches in other towns, such as Hartsville, do. The Hartsville branch has received significant support from Sonoco Products Co., a multinational Fortune 500 company that is headquartered in the Darlington County town.
The strengthening of old relationships and establishing of new ones will also be a focus of the Conway branch in 2019, Anderson said. “We’ve traditionally had a strong relationship with the faith community, and we need to rekindle that relationship.”
Also, the organization needs to establish and maintain relationships with other activist groups that have sprung up in Horry County in recent years, Anderson said, adding that the NAACP and those groups don’t always coordinate and act in a collaborative fashion.
“There have been changes in the times, and so many other activist groups are emerging,” the Conway native said. “That’s a positive thing, but the NAACP is one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the country and all of us have got to learn to work together to achieve our common goals if we’re going to be successful.”
In February 2018, the National NAACP filed a lawsuit against in U.S. District Court against the city of Myrtle Beach, citing racially discriminatory practices during Black Bike Week, which is held annually on Memorial Day weekend in nearby Atlantic City. Because the case is pending, local NAACP leaders have been advised by legal counsel not to comment on the case, Anderson said.
When asked how the current Conway Branch of the NAACP compares to the Conway branch under former longtime president, the legendary Rev. H.H. Singleton, whom she followed as president for her first two terms, Anderson replied, “There is no comparison. Some shoes are hard to fill, but he left a legacy I can build on.”