Schenectady NAACP chapter has new leadership
SCHENECTADY The Schenectady chapter of the NAACP has a new leader: The Rev. Theodore W. Ward.
Ward, 52, of Albany, formerly of Schenectady, was elected to a two-year term as president in March. He replaces Paul Webster, who declined to seek a second term as president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Ward takes over a disorganized chapter that lost more than two-thirds of its membership in the past year and was put into receivership by the state NAACP organization for inactivity. This is the second time the local chapter’s charter has been revoked in the past two years.
Ward, a pastor with Koinonia Christian Center, a small non-denominational church in the Lincoln Heights Community Center in Schenectady, vows to turn the chapter around and make it more effective. He realizes he faces a challenge.
For one, he has already come under criticism for living in Albany and serving as head of the Schenectady chapter. His response is that NAACP bylaws permit his election because he works in Schenectady through his church.
Also, when the state NAACP revoked the local charter earlier this year, some members of the community suggested the revocation be permanent, Ward said. Disagreeing with this, Ward offered himself up as president. “I believe in the NAACP, and I believe we can run a great operation,” he said.
Because of a limited pool of members, the local chapter’s executive board remains short several people. The board currently consists of Joseph Skinner as first vice president, Marsha Mortimer as secretary and Allison Williams as treasurer. They are part of a 10-seat executive committee.
Membership once stood at 180 but is now down to 60, Ward said. Many memberships lapsed because they were only for one year and applications for re-enrollment were not sent out by the state organization, he said. He has sent out membership applications to former members, hoping they will rejoin.
As president, Ward said he plans to revitalize the chapter’s subcommittees, which he calls the backbone of the organization.
“As long as you stay focused on the standing committees and the executive board listens to the committees, you can be effective,” he said.
The subcommittees include economic development, civic engagement, political engagement, education, youth, media and academics, science, math and technology.
Each subcommittee will have a chairman and officers and will be charged with tackling issues of relevance in its area, Ward said: “What I am doing now is getting members and the executive board focused on how the NAACP operates as an organization.”
Once the standing committees are in order, Ward said the local chapter can engage fully in its purpose. This includes monitoring the school district, city and county for compliance with affirmative action; dealing with discrimination complaints; reducing the drop-out rate among and high suspension rate of black males in the school district; and ensuring that minorities have equal representation in government.
“We are going to watch things and get as much data and information as we can,” Ward said.
He said at the same time, the NAACP will continue to deal with emerging issues. For example, he said the organization recently intervened successfully in a discrimination complaint in Schenectady.