NORWALK, Conn. – A rumor that membership in the Norwalk Branch NAACP has dropped stems from an executive session discussion that’s been twisted, Brenda Penn-Williams said Monday.
Penn-Williams said she’d learned a lot in her first year as NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Norwalk Branch president. But former President Darnell Crosland said he’s heard there are problems and he’s considering leadership options, and possibly a return to the presidency.
NancyOnNorwalk heard a rumor last month from a concerned citizen that so many people had left the local NAACP branch that the group might lose its accreditation. At least 50 members are needed, according to the individual, who shared second thoughts over voting for Penn-Williams instead of Jalin Sead in the 2016 election and asserting that people are talking about asking Penn-Williams to resign.
Crosland, in a Friday email, said “I’ve heard the same and have considered leadership options. We need to change direction.”
“There is a cloud over the branch that needs to be lifted. All we can do is pray for change.
“There are people in leadership positions, pastors and such that have done little to discourage certain behaviors and that’s a shame.
“Now we must live with the result of their apathy.”
Asked about leadership options, Crosland said, “Returning as President is an option.”
Crosland suggested asking Yolanda Skinner about the rumor; she said, “I don’t believe that I’m able to provide much info as I stepped away from the Norwalk Branch NAACP last March, 2017. Since I haven’t attended any meetings since then, I don’t know that membership in the Norwalk Branch NAACP has dwindled to the point that the Norwalk Branch NAACP might lose its accreditation. Or, that Brenda may be asked to resign.”
NAACP Norwalk branch First Vice President Andre Williams, who is not related to Penn-Williams, said in a Saturday phone call that he is not aware of a problem with dwindling membership.
Penn-Williams said in December that she hadn’t heard of a problem with membership. On Monday, she explained that identities of members are a secret, known only by the branch secretary.
That dates to the historical threat of the Ku Klux Klan burning down homes of members or killing them, she said.
“They have kept those rules,” she said. “The president is not even privy to knowing who the members of the NAACP are. She can’t even give me a list of the members. All of these people telling you the members is in jeopardy – I think the secretary would tell me something like that. … I have never received a letter from the state nor have I received a letter from national.”
The NAACP Norwalk Branch has a continuous membership drive, she said, explaining that she brought this up in an executive session with the executive Board and said, “I want people to continue to get members. We could be, if we don’t keep up the membership, we could be in jeopardy of losing our charter.”
“I did not say we are in jeopardy, I said we could be… You have to keep 50,” she said. “People twist it.”
Members sign up for a year so renewals are staggered. Not all members come to meetings, so attendance is not indication of the membership total, she said, professing ignorance that Skinner had “stepped away.”
Told Crosland expressed an interest in returning as president, Penn-Williams replied, “He doesn’t even come to a meeting.”
“My style is different from Darnell’s style,” she said. “… I think I hold people more accountable.”
Asked about her accomplishments over the last year, Penn-Williams said she’s maintained the group’s activities.
“I have not done anything that they have not done in the past,” she said, explaining that the NAACP had a health fair and held its Freedom Fund banquet last fall, and maintained its relationship with other organizations.
The branch held its first black excellence awards ceremony and that was Sead’s initiative, she said.
Sead left the NAACP last year and formed the Connecticut Coalition For Change (CC4C), with Darius Williams.
“I had no idea he was going to do that,” Penn-Williams said. “So he went into a different direction, which I think is great.”
She doesn’t know if the branch is going to hold a black excellence awards this year as she need to see what Sead wants to do, she said, as “I don’t know if he’s going to do it. That was his baby, he did an excellent job with that.”
There is a black history program in the works and there are two fundraisers planned as she would like more people to be able to attend the national convention, she said. There might be a pancake breakfast, too, but she wants to have guest speakers.
“People don’t have a clue to the things that I do, to the meetings I gave been in,” she said. “Folks think you should fight in media. I used to, before I got into this position … One thing I have learned is, you don’t fight folks in the media. I am going to sit at table and I am going to try to resolve what I can resolve… I have learned a lot in one year. A lot.”