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Denton NAACP Chapter low on active members, offices and funds

Denton NAACP Chapter low on active members, offices and funds

February 22
16:00 2017

One look at the core members of the Denton chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People shows passion, inspiration and pride. A second look shows that they need help.

The organization currently has around 50 registered members. The core, active members of the organization have major aspirations to help make changes throughout the Denton community. However, there are a lot of issues that the Denton NAACP members hope to address and overhaul in the coming months.

“About seven [members] are actually doing something,” Chapter President Willie Hudspeth, 71, said. “The rest are just members.”

Hudspeth said he and the NAACP are looking to build outward into the community, signing up new members of all ethnicities, ages and backgrounds. The organization is looking to make advancements and improvements happen throughout the community in their wake.

However, because they are in such need of more members, the Denton NAACP lacks funding and financial support for things like an office or legal services for community members in need of legal help.

Still, they use much of the limited funds they have to give back to the community.

“Our biggest financial need and what we work towards is scholarships,” Hudspeth said, noting that many of their scholarships get awarded to students who make Bs and Cs in their classes, instead of just As. “Not only A-students go to college. Others do as well.”

In 2016, the Denton NAACP awarded nine Denton ISD graduates each with a $500 scholarship, totaling $4,500 in awards.

For chapter meetings, conducted on the second Thursday of every month, the group meets in a community room at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center on Wilson Street.

John Catlin Jr., the owner of a local trucking company, helps to oversee these meetings as the chairperson for the chapter’s legal redress committee. Along with the organization, this committee sets out to help community members in need with legal issues.

Because of the lack of funds and active members, however, the organization is not able to provide any actual legal assistance to anyone. They can only direct people to certain avenues that they see would best benefit their case.

“If we can help, we will,” Catlin Jr. said. “If it’s something we can do, we’ll do it. And that needs to be known.”

Catlin Jr. said one of his major goals is to help fight injustices he sees in the community, as well as other problems brought to the attention of the committee.

“The reason I joined the NAACP is because I truly believe in fighting for human rights,” Catlin Jr. said. “Some people, I’ve learned in this community, are afraid to come forward and speak about these injustices.”

The legal redress committee is a small, but devout, group of individuals. They take on the woes of the community, primarily from community members who may not have the means to fully resolve their situations themselves.

Senior citizen Billy Brasfield was once a member of the Denton NAACP, but left years ago because he saw a lack of motivation and organization.

“The people who are in the NAACP now give me hope,” he said.

Brasfield recently joined the NAACP again recently and got involved in the legal redress committee because he sees a brighter, more active future, due in part to new leadership under Hudspeth. He said he’s excited to be a part of a change in his community.

“I think they’ll see that these are people who are trying to make a difference,” Brasfield said.

Manuel Gooden, now an independent business owner thanks from help from the NAACP, and Jasmine Jones-Watkins, an aerialist and acrobatic dancer for Cirque de Soleil, are also members of the active legal redress committee.

“There’s power in numbers,” Gooden said.

The NAACP helped him get his own power washing business off the ground so he could be in business for himself, beautifying and ridding the community of unwanted grease stains, mildew and dirty cars.

“I’ve always known this organization to stand for justice over inequality,” Gooden said.

Gooden, 35, and Jones-Watkins, 24, are two of the younger active members of the Denton NAACP. They bring a reach into the community that is different, effectively, than that of their elder members.

Jones-Watkins said she has been dancing since she was just a little girl, and she is now looking to be an active mentor to young dancers wanting to make a pursue their passion in the art.

“It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it,” Jones-Watkins said.

In their quest for new members, the Denton NAACP will soon be having their annual chapter banquet on Saturday, April 1 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center. Tickets will be $50 for adults and $35 for youth under 12 years-old. Proceeds will go to funding the organization and for more scholarships for graduating seniors.

“We want this banquet to go well because during this time we’re looking to gain more members,” Hudspeth said. “My goal is to keep building the body of this organization.”

Moving forward, the NAACP is looking to help the community in its fights for a better future, battling against injustices of any kind.

With more numbers and more funding, they’ll be able to broaden their reach and further revamp the power behind their organization.

“We will follow the rules,” Hudspeth said. “But we will not be silent anymore.”

Featured Image: NAACP Chapter president Willie Hudspeth cleanes up trash around his shop. Kelsey Shoemaker

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Kyle Martin

Kyle Martin

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