NAACP forms anew with young leadership - Ocean City Sentinel: News

NAACP forms anew with young leadership

By ERIC AVEDISSIAN/Sentinel staff | Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2019 11:07 am

Woodbine resident Alexander Bland was installed as the new president of the Cape May County NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) chapter Nov. 14.

“Our biggest goal is making an impact in the county, letting the county know about us,” Bland said. “We’re partnering with different organizations and churches just so the NAACP can stay alive. We’ve got to constantly build our membership and build our awareness.”

The NAACP is a national civil rights organization founded in 1909 by W.E.B. DuBois, Ida Wells, Mary Church Terrell, Archibald Grimké, Mary White Ovington, Henry Moskowitz, and William English Walling to advance equality for African-Americans. 

The organization’s goals have expanded to eliminating all race-based discrimination and championing educational and equal opportunities for all people.

Bland, 29, is the youngest NAACP branch president in New Jersey. A licensed practical nurse (LPN) at the Woodbine Developmental Center, Bland organized activities and events for youth in his community. 

Cape May County’s NAACP chapter was formerly active but fell into inactivity after the death of former NAACP president Christina Hatcher in May 2018. 

Members drifted away. Bland said he and a group of dedicated members revitalized the organization. 

Bland said his aunt, Cumberland County Freeholder Darlene Barber, introduced him to Todd Edwards, Political Action Chairman of the New Jersey NAACP.  

Through Edwards, Bland met New Jersey NAACP President Richard T. Smith. Bland told Smith his goals for resurrecting the NAACP in Cape May County. 

“You’ve got to be up to 50 members to have an election,” Bland said. “I got the 50 members. It was a process.”

The Cape May County NAACP chapter held its elections in October. Members chose Bland as chapter president, Quinette Vasser-McNeal as first vice president, Christopher L. Hines as second vice president, Wanda Sheppard as secretary, and Cheryl Cisrow as treasurer.

Bland noted that every NAACP branch performs services and needs based on its location.

“For us, I believe our area is education and spreading resources and helping people know those resources are out there,” Bland said. 

He said the organization provides information and assistance for its members. Everything from finding affordable education alternatives to finding a babysitter or providing free transportation is available.

NAACP membership is open to everybody, Bland said. 

“The NAACP is not just for black people or African-Americans,” Bland said. “If you need help, we will do what we can to help you. If it is an unfortunate situation that has something to do with race, we have to step up, but I don’t believe that happens a lot in Cape May County.”

Having an active NAACP chapter in Cape May County, where whites far outnumber blacks, is important, Bland said. 

According to U.S. Census data, Cape May County’s Black population is 4.9 percent, compared to 91.8 percent Whites. 

“For that minority it’s important for representation. It’s important for the kids to see somebody like me that’s 29 and trying to make something and dressing a certain way and for them to look up to,” Bland said. 

Cape May County’s NAACP chapter currently has 90 members from all over the county, he said. 

“The same week I got voted in in October we had our state convention,” Bland said. “President Smith was speaking at the time. He was talking about the youth in the NAACP and he brought up ‘we just elected our youngest branch president in the state, Alexander Bland’ and I felt like a celebrity. Everybody just stood up clapping and I never got a response like that before. People are excited just not in the county, but in the state.”

Bland noted the organization is “nonpartisan but heavily political.”

“We can’t endorse candidates or get involved in elections,” Bland said. “We support agendas and issues.”

He said the NAACP supports efforts in the Ban the Box campaign, a nationwide effort to eliminate a check box asking applicants if they have a criminal record. 

Bland said ex-offenders can find their future employment impacted by such a check box. 

Another issue the NAACP supports is legalizing marijuana and expungement of criminal records related to marijuana possession. 

 “It doesn’t make sense if we legalize it and people are still in jail for the stuff that’s legal now,” Bland said, adding that minority arrests and incarceration related to marijuana are “based on discrimination.”

He said a local NAACP chapter lets youth know that these issues are important to them.

“It matters now and we can help you get opportunities like being a police officer or a nurse or being a chef, whatever you would like to be. There’s opportunities out there,” Bland said.

Bland said the county NAACP responded to an incident during the summer where Middle Township Mayor Tim Donohue wrote a purportedly humorous post on Facebook criticizing those who branded all supporters of President Donald Trump as racists. 

The post was published on the conservative website “Save Jersey” on Aug. 9.

“For the past week, all the people that are still permitted to express their opinions in public have been telling me that I am a racist and a white supremacist. So it must be true, right?” the mayor wrote. “I mean, I don’t remember bouncing out of bed this morning and thinking, ‘How can I reign supreme over people of color today?’”

Bland said the post was “dismissive of racism” and the NAACP responded with a statement to the local press. 

 “A lot of people didn’t like that. A lot of people thought we were troublemakers. We’re not troublemakers we’re trying to help the people in the  county,” Bland said, adding Donohue contacted him and discussed the issue. “Me and Tim are good now. We’re friends.” 

Bland said many white people, including politicians, have joined the chapter. He said everyone is welcome to attend meetings and join.   “Who are we to tell you that you can’t be a part of this? That’s just silly that we’d exclude people from an organization that’s trying to help all people,” Bland said.

The Cape May County NAACP chapter has a social media presence on Facebook at