When confronted with issues, many communities organize to develop collective strategies to deal with them. Is there a need for more organization within local black communities?
Charleston Branch NAACP President Dot Scott said many viable organizations already exist in local black communities, but she has no problem if more are created. With an anticipated onslaught of political and social issues on the horizon which may adversely affect black communities, there’s a place for everyone, she says.
Scott said the perception that organizations in the black community may not be as effective as they could be rests in their tendency to act independently. With greater attention today from the mainstream news media, black organization that in the past were ignored now compete for the attention they once were so widely denied.
“Everybody wants to be first to hold a press conference. I don’t see our community taking initiatives. Instead we fight among ourselves, so maybe we haven’t been as effective as we could be,” Scott said. But she added, “We also lack support from black elected officials.”
“There’s enough blame to go around, but the few people we have working to resolve our issues get overworked. Most people don’t realize how much we do because we don’t broadcast all that we do. In the past organizations in the black communities co-existed, now it seems like it’s everybody for themselves.”
Charleston Trident Urban League President Otha Meadows shared similar thoughts. “We need more organizations, and then, we don’t,” he said. “The problem is we’re not coordinated. We operate in silos. You’d think it would be a no-brainer that we should get together around the table and collectively develop a consensus, but that hasn’t happened. I don’t know whether that’s because there are too many egos or whether we just don’t understand leadership. But until we come together about framing an agenda of our own, we’ll continue to work on someone else’s agenda.”
Like Scott, Meadows thinks there is space in the black community for more organizations that address specific issues. But more importantly, those already in existence must collaborate and co-operate, he said. “The bottom line is we don’t have a specific agenda to move our community forward so we’re constantly reacting to issues that arise versus having a strategy that addresses them on the front end. Right now we’re riding the bus. We’re not driving the bus.”
LaVanda Brown, who just celebrated her first year as executive director of the YWCA of Greater Charleston, said convening of the minds and setting a collective agenda can result in an infrastructure that addresses issues which confront communities. A lot of organizations work in silos. Consequently their efforts are diluted, she said.
Meadows said the Urban League’s willing to any time facilitate a meeting that brings organizations together. “Any time, any place. We’d be more than happy to do it,” he said.