The camaraderie and unity between long-time friends and the good food is what keeps Agnes Taulton going to the Clairton NAACP Family Picnic year after year.
“It’s nice because you get the chance to meet people,” said Taulton, a 76-year-old lifelong Clairton resident. “The organization is helpful because they give out a scholarship and they help people. I enjoy the picnic because you don’t have to cook. It’s really a nice outing.”
Taulton, who has been a member of the Clairton NAACP for more than 10 years, shows her appreciation for the organization by donating cases of pop to the annual bash.
The theme for this year’s picnic was “A Show of Strength,” which was last year’s theme. The 2009 event was postponed due to inclement weather.
“We’re still using the same title as last year because the community is to be unified,” aid Richard Ford, NAACP vice president and picnic chairman.
The day-long event, held on Labor Day at Clairton Park, featured a parade that showcased the Clairton High School cheerleaders, the 2009 and 2010 king and queen and their prom courts.
The 2009 king and queen were Shekaja Carr and Kevin Withers and the 2010 prom king and queen were Tyrik McClelland and Jonnisa Sanders.
The day also included praise dancing by Gena Wells, face painting, games, a fashion show, dancers, singers and an African drum corps led by Keith Murray, who runs a school of music in McKeesport.
“We had some really good entertainment and a really outstanding time this year!” said Clairton NAACP President Greg Stewart.
The annual NAACP picnic has been a staple in the city of Clairton for more than a century.
Ford said that although the committee tries to come up with different things to draw a crowd each year, turn out has waned in the last few years.
He attributes part of that to the Clairton Reunion celebration that occurs at the start and runs throughout Labor Day weekend. The goal of both events is to unify the city of Clairton.
“When this reunion group started their picnic the weekend of Labor Day, and it started getting bigger and bigger that caused us to have a lack of attendance,” Ford said. “People come in from out of town for that and are either heading back home or are either too tired to come to the NAACP picnic.
“Although some people do stay over, by Monday we are catering to local people, but we still seem to have a decent crowd. I like the idea of people coming together. We should all be working together instead of being mad at each other. The Clairton Reunion should encourage people to stay over for the NAACP picnic and spend money to help a group in the city of Clairton that can’t stand alone like the library or the cheerleaders,” Ford continued.
Ford also said another reason he believes attendance has dropped is because people don’t think the NAACP is as vital anymore.
“I think people think the struggle is over, but it’s rearing its ugly head more than ever. People are showing their true colors and are hesitant to unify. That’s hard to believe in this day and age. It’s sad,” Ford said.
The Clairton Branch of the NAACP has been in existence since the mid-1940s. It currently has about 70 members.
The organization is always open for new members. In addition to members asking people to join, a yearly membership drive is held to increase membership.
Anyone interested in joining the Clairton NAACP is encouraged to attend one of the group’s meetings.
The Clairton NAACP meets every third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at First AME Church, 177 Mitchell Ave.
(For more information on the Clairton NAACP, contact NAACP member Jacqueline Wellington-Moore at 412-233-3929 or Ford at 412-215-6830.)