MISSION: St. Louis County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) works to eliminate racial discrimination and ensure political, educational, social and economic equal rights for everyone. The nonprofit stands for the belief that people of all races, nationalities and faiths are created equal.
St. Louis County NAACP members strive to remove barriers of racial discrimination through democratic processes, seek enactment and enforcement of federal, state and local laws securing civil rights, educate people of their constitutional rights, and inform the public of the adverse effects of racial discrimination and seek its elimination.
HISTORY: Part of the national 104-year-old NAACP, the St. Louis County branch is celebrating its 75th year. The organization has grown from 65 to 400 members since 2009 under the leadership of president Esther Haywood, a lifelong member. “In life, what’s important is family first, then church and community. NAACP was just that part of my community life—an organization where I can help people,” Haywood says. “Maybe there’s something in your blood to do it.”
COMMUNITY IMPACT: The organization’s health, education, police and membership committees serve thousands each year through civic engagement, education, economic empowerment, criminal justice and social services.
Members field communications with other members and non-members daily, referring them to services or even just serving as a sounding board for legal and employment discrimination issues, Haywood says. Additional educational and economic services include adult literacy, education, financial literacy and job fairs.
As a grassroots organization, members sustain the mission, and continual recruitment is a necessity, Haywood notes. “We are making progress, but without the members pushing it, it would not survive. We always need people to help with our membership drive.”
ON THE BOARD: JOHN GASKIN
John Gaskin is following in the footsteps of his grandmother, St. Louis County NAACP president Esther Haywood, and great-aunt, who formerly chaired the organization’s Freedom Fund Dinner. The Ladue H.S. grad is a busy Benedictine College student and football player, but he still is making time to carry on the family tradition of leadership in the NAACP. As chair of the national youth work committee for the national board and chair of the local Freedom Fund Dinner, Gaskin is leading the drive to recruit the next generation of young members locally and nationally.
While Gaskin says he was born into the organization, he has been inspired to stay because of its ability to create positive change. “I do it as a labor of love—you don’t get any monetary value from this. I believe in the cause of the organization—we work to eliminate racial inequality and disparities.” As a young advocate, he continually meets young adults who are becoming familiarized with the 104-year-old organization for the first time. “In order to keep things going, it takes new blood, it takes new youth,” he emphasizes. “I have been able to bring in that new youth.”
When Gaskin’s great-aunt ran the Freedom Fund Dinner, she raised $300,000, an impressive number for that time, he notes. Last year, the dinner raised its largest-ever total when Gaskin first took the helm. He hopes to build on that record June 4 at The Ritz-Carlton, where the event, themed 'We Shall Not Be Moved,' will recognize 25 St. Louisans making a major impact on eliminating inequality. The event’s Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to James Buford, retiring president and CEO of Urban League of St. Louis. “What the event means is we are not going to move backwards—never back, forever forward—on inequality issues in our community. We have to be persistent in terms of what we are doing to eliminate racial disparity in America.”
The dinner benefits the organization’s mission, and allows its members to participate in national, state and regional NAACP seminars and conferences.
Gaskin credits the nonprofit for where he is today. “If it wasn’t for the NAACP, I probably wouldn’t have been able to go to Ladue High School or go to college.” So he hopes to keep fueling the organization for future generations. “We are looking to do the impossible this year.”
FREEDOM FUND DINNER, JUNE 4, 2013 AT THE RITZ-CARLTON
At the 75th annual Freedom Fund Dinner, St. Louis County NAACP will honor 25 local contributors, and present the Lifetime Achievement Award to James Buford, retiring president and CEO of Urban League of St. Louis.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED: To volunteer, become a member or learn more about St. Louis County NAACP, call 389-1552 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.