NAACP stepping up its presence in area


Published: Thursday, January 9, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 8, 2003 at 9:32 p.m.
Alachua County's branch of the NAACP plans to take a more public role in the months ahead, with events including a job fair, the publication of a newspaper and a caucus for local black political leaders.
President Michael Bowie discussed the branch's more visible presence with residents and area leaders on Wednesday, but added that the local group also sees itself as having an "invitational" function in the community.
"Our goal is to say, 'Welcome. Be involved. Help us. We're not here to attack,' " Bowie said.
"I wanted to get across to them that we are here. We're open. We're willing to sit down and talk if there are things that you're interested in changing in your area or in your field," Bowie said following his half-hour speech at the University of Florida Reitz Union, where he spoke about the NAACP's five-year strategic plan.
The plan touches on areas including education, health and political empowerment.
"If you're interested in increasing diversity, come talk to us," Bowie said. "We're not somebody who's going to say, 'Yes, we told you that you needed to do this kind of thing.' "
Bowie spoke to about 30 people, including Gainesville City Manager Wayne Bowers and State Attorney Bill Cervone, as part of the Community Campus Council program. Sponsored by UF, the program brings local leaders together to talk about timely issues. The program runs throughout the university's fall and spring semesters.
Bowie offered a preview of things to come for the group, starting with an African-American Summit scheduled for later this month. The event will involve church representatives and political leaders who have been invited to talk about issues impacting blacks in the county.
The group also is working to organize a caucus where black political leaders from around the county will meet. Other upcoming events include a meeting, which the group is co-sponsoring, over special education needs for students, and a job fair for offenders, which will help people once they are released from corrections facilities.
Bowie also said the NAACP branch plans to put out a newspaper every three months that will look at national and local issues.
One issue that is part of the NAACP's strategic plan is criminal justice, which Bowie described as a "serious" matter in Alachua County.
"I think that often times, they're focusing too much on crime, not enough on crime prevention," he said. "We are looking at police accountability. So we're not going to give up on things such as the citizens' review board."
Last year Gainesville city commissioners debated the idea of whether to set up such a board to hear complaints against the city's police officers but decided against it, deciding there already was enough oversight of officers.
Lise Fisher can be reached at 374-5092 or fisherl@ gvillesun.com.

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