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Local NAACP launches new initiatives

Russell Contreras

The Boston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is reviving its traditional advocacy for victims of racial discrimination after a 15-year hiatus when such activism nearly disappeared amid low membership and inactivity.

Michael Curry, president of the Boston branch NAACP, said the chapter is set to relaunch a number of initiatives that would address charges of racial bias in employment, education, housing and public accommodations.

Curry said by not addressing complaints, the branch has sent a message that discrimination is no longer a problem.

“We get a lot of discrimination complaints … many of them never make it to the right agencies or see the light of day,” said Curry. “If the Boston branch were to publish all the complaints it receives, people would see the level of discrimination that is still out there.”

In June, the Boston NAACP chapter will host a “Racial Discrimination Training” event in conjunction with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts Young Professional’s Network and the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston. The training at Boston’s Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center is aimed at helping residents recognize discrimination and inform them of channels available to address it.

The training is also being supported by the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

After the training, NAACP Boston will announce details about ongoing legal clinics that offer help with individual cases.

The efforts are part of the Boston branch’s larger goal to reinvigorate itself as it celebrates its 100th birthday this year, and come after U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz in Boston vowed her office would start aggressively pursuing civil rights cases. Curry said the new initiatives bring the Boston branch back to its original mission at fighting for equality.

Curry pointed to similar initiatives at NAACP branches nationwide, which he said show how successful an NAACP branch can be when it’s organized and has relationships with the right officials.

In Houston, for example, the city’s police chief, Charles McClelland, instituted reforms that allow residents to file police complaints with the local offices of the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the city’s Office of Inspector General, instead of going to a police station. The reforms came after complaints from the Houston branch of the NAACP over a videotape showing police officers beating a black teenage burglary suspect.

In Maryland, the NAACP is locked in a legal fight with Maryland State Police over complaints of racial profiling and other allegations of misconduct by troopers. The NAACP is seeking nearly 10,000 pages of documents that detail investigations into about 100 charges of racial profiling since 2003.

Alejandra St. Guillen, executive director of Oiste, a group that trains Latinos in Massachusetts to run for office, said the new initiatives are another sign that Curry is reviving the Boston branch NAACP. She said Curry also has reached out to the city’s Latino population and is showing that he is committed to fighting discrimination at all levels.

St. Guillen said she liked the idea of the Boston NAACP branch helping victims of racial discrimination find the right channels for relief.

“There are many places you can go,” St. Guillen said, “but a one-stop shop is a really great option to have.”

Associated Press