Niles NAACP preparing to celebrate 61st year next month

Published 6:48 am Friday, February 27, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The Niles Branch of the NAACP will be celebrating its 61st anniversary this March.
The group was founded locally to address issues of racial discrimination and while that is still one of their concerns, a main focus of the Niles NAACP is now on education.
Niles NAACP branch president Saundria Wilson and member Georgia Boggs made it clear that one of the group's current concentrations is on the education of black youth in Niles.
The local branch was chartered in March 1942 with the help of black community leaders R.W. Gully, Andrew Bradford, Percy Gay and Elisha Davis.
Wilson, who has been president for more than six years, said the branch has had an impact on civil rights, legal issues, education, political awareness, minority job placement and job training and development in its 60-year history.
She said it is important to remember the events of the past, but it is also important to look to the future.
With programs like the NAACP college workshop in December, the group is focusing on getting black youth to be prepared to further their education.
The program featured a panel of successful black college students who talked about the importance of education and what it takes to be successful in school.
The college night also offered information on financial aid and the steps necessary to get into college.
The Niles branch is also looking to construct a memorial somewhere in the city to remember the legacy left by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Boggs is heading the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Fund and is just starting to get the project moving. She began the project last year, but it was put on hold due to a family health crisis.
Boggs plans to assemble "a very diversified committee" to look into the project. One possible plan to help raise money for the memorial is some sort of community banquet or gathering.
The plans are still tentative, but she hopes to raise enough money to fund a statue of Dr. King somewhere in the city.
Boggs would like to see this happen within the next few years.
The Niles NAACP is also working to increase their membership.
There are currently 50 active members in the group
Boggs said the membership is down considerably from recent years. She said five years ago, the group's membership had been as high as 300.
Wilson said the branch sponsors three annual events in Niles: The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. community breakfast, the Living Black History program and the Freedom Fund Banquet.
The community breakfast takes places on the morning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and features speakers celebrating his legacy. This event has been held in Niles for the past six years.
The Living Black History program is a family event that has taken place for the last 10 years. This year it was held at Ring Lardner on Feb. 14 and included speakers and a film about the Underground Railroad.
The Freedon Fund Banquet is an annual event held by all branches of the NAACP. It is fundraiser and social gathering estabished to celebrate freedom and help fund the NAACP's programs.
This year's Freedom Fund Banquet will be held at the Niles Inn on April 24 at 6:30 p.m.