Battle For NAACP Leadership Looms
A battle looms for control of the Far Rockaway branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a national organization that has long fought for equal rights for all Americans.
Pastor Barrielevia Evans, who heads the Sayahword Ministries, housed in the Mount Carmel Baptist Church on Beach 71 Street, wants to take the leadership held by Edward Williams, a Far Rockaway man who has led the organization for more than six years.
"I decided to run [against Williams] last summer, after the death of Patrick Hernandez," Evans said. "I was solidified in my belief because the NAACP did nothing and that was the seventeenth homicide in Rockaway during the years that I have had my ministry."
"I was hoping, praying that [Williams and the NAACP] would get involved. I have been hoping for that since Mario Young died in September of 1996."
When Evans sought to enter the leadership race, however, he says that he was notified by Williams that he could not run, because he was not a member in good standing and because he neither lived nor worked in Far Rockaway, requirements to stand for election under the organization's constitution and bylaws.
In that position, Evans says, he brought in many new, younger members and many donations.
Shortly thereafter, however, Donavan Richards, a staffer for City Councilman James Sanders, Jr., was added as a youth advisor as well, and he was moved aside, Evans says.
"[Williams] was with me as long as I was bringing in the dough," Evans told The Wave in an interview this week.
He says that some of the money he raised was never used for its intended purpose and that, when he complained, Williams removed him from the membership roles in November of 2007.
Evans argues that, although he lives in Staten Island, his ministry in Rockaway and his employment with Gaffney's Funeral Home in Inwood, make him eligible under the rules.
He says that he rejoined the organization 30 days ago, and that the rules allow him to run.
Williams agrees that Evans is qualified to run because he works in Inwood, part of the local organization's catchment area, but that is the only thing he agrees with as far as Evans is concerned.
"I would be happy to let him run if he were eligible to run," Williams told The Wave on Wednesday. "He does work within this jurisdiction, but the rules are clear that to run for office, a candidate has to be a member as of April first of the election year. Evans joined on September 26, so he will be eligible to run in the next election, which is two years from now."
Williams provided a copy of the constitution to The Wave, and it does say that a candidate must be a member in good standing by April 1 in order to run for an office that year. "Evans did not pay his dues in 2007 and was removed from the roles by the national organization," Williams said. "Nobody threw him out, and he didn't come back until September."
Williams, who says that the local organization has approximately 100 members, is dedicated to changing things in the Far Rockaway community, particularly in the areas of education and crime prevention.
"Anybody who wants to run needs to be committed to what the NAACP is all about," Williams said. "The candidates have to respect our history."