When the vote counting was finally completed around 10:45, Constance Parker, long-time friend and first vice president to outgoing President M. Gayle Moss, had won the election to be the NAACP Pittsburgh Branch’s new president.
Parker defeated Debra Walker by a narrow 26-vote margin, 171 to 145, with Regina Ragin-Dykes finishing a distant third in a race that saw more than 340 votes cast.
“I feel good,” said Parker. “I think the people want to move forward and change the community, have more diversity and address the economy and education. So I feel good. I think God has me on a mission.”
Joining Parker on the winning slate were Charlene R. McAbee, first vice president; Marilyn Barnett Waters, 2nd vice president; Johnnie Miott, 3rd vice president; Anita B. Walker, secretary and Morton D. Stanfield Jr., treasurer.
In recent years, critics have said the organization is not the proactive civil rights organization it once was, several citing its lack of involvement in addressing the Black-on-Black violence on the rise in city neighborhoods.
Richard Garland, a research associate at the University of Pittsburgh and long-time campaigner against street violence, said he doesn’t see Parker’s election changing much.
“Truthfully, they’ve been invisible since Tim (Stevens) was president. I mean look at this recent police shooting of the kid driving the car—silence,” said Garland. “The community is not engaged and it doesn’t feel represented by the organization that is supposed to do that.”
State Rep-elect Ed Gainey disagreed saying he believes Parker will be more visible.
“First, I want to congratulate her on her win. One thing about Connie is she knows the issues, but she also knows the challenges,” he said. “Obviously the violence in our communities and education are the critical issues, and I believe she will be actively engaging the community.”
Twenty-five-year veteran youth and anti-violence street preacher Rev. Sheldon Stoudemire said he thinks Moss did a good job, the NAACP itself needs to be revamped.
“They need to focus on the Black-on-Black homicides,” he said. “It’s a national crisis and the NAACP doesn’t address it. If it were White guys doing it, they’d be on it like a hobo on a hot meal.
“It’s going to take someone with courage, who can think outside the box. Right now they’re content with the position and the title. Forget that—lets get some work done.”
Brandi Fisher, president and CEO of Citizens for Police Accountability, said that she felt the branch should be more active, but rather than complain, she ran to join the branch’s executive committee and won.
“I was critical as a resident and as an advocate, but now I’m optimistic,” she said. “One thing about Ms. Constance Parker is she is willing to work with young leaders to try and get more young people involved,” she said. “I know Connie plans to be proactive about the violence. With Schools closing and students being moved around, that’s sparking a lot of it. So concentrating on education is one way to address that.”
Pittsburgh Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle said he expects positive things from the new branch president.
“She will put her all into it and will work to make the branch be more engaged in the community, which it needs to be,” he said. “They need to be issue advocates, especially on education in light of recent reports. She’s been around and done good work, and I believe she will be active in the community.”
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