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City Pages

After about five years of inactivity, Athens’ chapter of the NAACP has re-established itself in the community. And, while the group’s support for the proposed Selig Enterprises development on Oconee Street has gotten significant attention of late, the chapter’s president says that’s not where the majority of the group’s energy is being directed.

Going into an election year, Clarke NAACP President Hope Iglehart says the main push for the recently formed chapter is voter registration. The chapter—Clarke County Branch Unit No. 5180—has already partnered with the Economic Justice Coalition to coordinate a massive registration drive through the fall, organizing meetings at churches like East Friendship Baptist Church on the east side of Athens.

“We’re doing it all through to the election,” says Iglehart, noting that a recent college fair and job-readiness event at the Classic Center officially kicked off the voter registration drive. But it’s meetings at churches, where friends can share fellowship and a spread of home-cooked food, where NAACP members can also explain the organization’s mission and solicit volunteers, she adds. “When you get to sit down in fellowship with one another, it’s a great way to find out the needs in the community. So we thought this would be a great way to get the word out and let people know what we’re trying to do, get volunteers, [and let them know] that we’re here in the community and we’re here for [them].”

Athens had an NAACP chapter until about five years ago, according to residents Marvin Nunnally and Linda Lloyd. Nunnally is now a parliamentarian for the re-established chapter, and Lloyd, who recalls her work in the chapter a decade ago, is now executive director of the Economic Justice Coalition.

“There’s such a need to be vocal and visible in the Athens-Clarke County community, and that’s why I take this very [seriously],” Nunnally says. “Just telling people to be involved, getting people involved and engaged in the community… that’s what it’s all about, getting people to become engaged. The NAACP is all about making people aware of their surroundings and engaging people in their community.”

The chapter formed just a few months ago, Iglehart says, but it already has official positions on several issues. The chapter is against the county commission’s “superdistricts”—a stance that is in accordance with the local legislative delegation’s decision to override the ACC government’s recommendation by producing a new commission map that will eliminate them. Single-member districts, says Iglehart, provide greater opportunities for people’s voices to be heard.

And, the chapter supports the proposed Selig Enterprises development on Oconee Street, where plans call for a Walmart to fill the 94,000-square-foot “anchor” space.

“We’ve spoken in support of the Selig property because we need jobs,” says Iglehart. “There are individuals who are out there who are not going to be able to compete [for] Caterpillar jobs. People need jobs, so we want [jobs]… and we welcome industry in Athens.”

But for the next few months, potential NAACP members will mingle with chapter members in local churches, neighborhoods and shopping centers. And longtime NAACP members like Edith Frazier will be able to reconnect with the organization on a local level.

“It’s much better, because if I’m just a member of the [national] chapter, there’s no way for me to connect,” Frazier said after listening to a recent presentation at East Friendship Baptist that also included a rousing speech about education by author and consultant Mychal Wynn. “But this one that’s just started, that’s really good.”