Longtime members buoyed by energetic atmosphere at 1st 2013 meeting
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
Members of the Coatesville Area NAACP described a welcome burst of contagious energy Monday at their first monthly meeting of 2013, which included the swearing-in of new leadership.
J. Whyatt Mondesire, who heads the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference, did the honors, which included a ceremony for the officers and executive committee members who won election in early November as well as a slate of seven appointees.
Tonya Thames Taylor, an associate professor at West Chester University and member of the Coatesville Area School Board will serve as president. Jane Kennedy was elected secretary and Linda Lavender Norris won election as treasurer.
Elected Executive Committee members included Glenda Milstead, Alexis Hales, James Bryant, Bobby Duncan, and Anthony Taylor. Appointees approved by the elected members were Mae Green, Rashad Grove, Herbert Outz, Linwood Smith, George Lambert, Elwood Dixon, and Everett Butcher.
“I’m really excited,” Kareem Johnson, a constable and former City Councilman, said after the meeting. “I’m really looking forward to seeing the agenda and working to get the city back on track.”
Taylor told the enthusiastic crowd that 2013 brings much to celebrate: the 75th anniversary of the Coatesville Area NAACP; the 50th anniversary of the death of civil-rights activist Medgar Evers; the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs, which featured Martin Luther King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech; and the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.
She said she was humbled and energized by the new post, something she could never have imagined growing up in Mississippi, even though she was introduced to Evers at age of 7 by her grandmother, a former sharecropper.
Taylor, who also serves as the community coordination chair for the state conference, said she sees the NAACP as an advocate for ensuring equal rights for all; however, she said many people don’t know that the organization first gained prominence for its fight to end lynching, not segregation. Taylor said she recalled not knowing what the word meant when she first heard it as a child. Then she learned about Emmett Till, a Mississippi 14-year-old who was lynched for reportedly flirting with a white woman.
She said providence likely played a role in the fact that she ended up moving to Coatesville five years ago, a city that prompted the NAACP to call for an end to lynching nationwide after Zachariah Walker, a black man who allegedly killed a white policeman, was pulled from his hospital bed and burned to death in front of a crowd in 1911.
Taylor said she feels strongly that she’s owes a debt to the civil-rights activists the “who put their lives on the line” to fight for equality. “I can never pay back all the folks who have made it possible for me to be where I am,” she said.
Among the upcoming events generating enthusiasm is an address by C.T. Vivian, a minister and civil-rights icon known for his efforts as a Freedom Rider and founder of several civil-rights organizations, on Feb. 22 at the Coatesville Area Senior High School auditorium at 6 p.m., Taylor said.
Kenneth H. Bond, a lifetime NAACP member with a distinguished history of military and community service, said his affiliation with the NAACP began at age 14 and took off when he became state secretary of the college and youth chapters, a path that enabled him to interact with civil-rights leaders.
Bond said he would like to see more involvement from the community. “I’m hoping we can get the city back to the way it used to be,” he said.
John “Hank” Hamilton, a retired music professor from Cheyney University who spent 13 years on the Coatesville school board, said he believes Taylor is an ideal leader. “She has more energy than anyone,” said the Coatesville native and lifelong NAACP member. “I know her work ethic. We’re blessed to have her.”
Echoing the sentiments of several others, Hamilton said the organization had “lost momentum” through no one’s fault. “The pilot light is back on,” he said, praising Taylor’s passion for history and dedication. “She’s a talented visionary.”