The Missouri City and Vicinity branch, which serves the entirety of Fort Bend County, was founded in 1986 and is made up of just under 200 members. Answers have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Tell me a little more about the work of the Missouri City and Vicinity NAACP branch.
For the Missouri City and Vicinity branch as a unit, our objectives, purpose and mission are exactly the same as national. The vision is to ensure the society in which we live has equal rights for everyone, without discrimination based on race. That’s the entire vision. When it comes to Black people we have issues in just about every area, actually. That includes economics, education, health, public safety, criminal justice, voting rights—it includes all of that. We work on ensuring discrimination is limited by addressing these issues through advocacy, mediation, legislation and litigation.
When you reflect on 2020 and the movement for racial justice that took place last year, what stands out to you?
What happened in 2020 with race relations and police brutality was awful, but the NAACP and Black citizens are not unfamiliar with that kind of death and brutality. I think it was a wake-up call for the rest of America and the world to see such brutality right in your face on television.
That is how the NAACP began—with hangings and lynchings—and moving forward, it is the same.
But I am hopeful that it will change because I think the whole country is looking at some type of criminal justice reform that will prevent another case of George Floyd.
How has the pandemic worsened some of the economic challenges facing the Black community?
Well it has been very difficult for a lot of Black-owned businesses to stay in business because it’s a matter of money; it’s a matter of patrons. A lot of the businesses require people to come into the building to receive a service. Since the pandemic, that has been very limited, so of course businesses are failing, or they are very limited in their ability to provide their service or product.
What we try to do is to keep the community informed of any and all monies that will help them keep their businesses afloat. We have an economic development committee who is working on that.
What are your organization’s top three goals for 2021?
Right now, number one is health. We’re concerned about COVID-19 and vaccines. We are working on putting as much information out as we can to encourage all African American citizens to take the vaccine. We have been doing our research, and we declared that it is safe for us to take the vaccine. Now we need to make sure our citizens can get the vaccine.
The second thing is criminal justice reform as well as any and all matters that concern our community regarding discrimination and racism. That’s going to be always parallel with criminal justice reform.
Third, we are expanding our presence throughout Fort Bend County. We’re working on membership and funding because we, too, lost a lot of funding for the programs that we had. The pandemic limited our ability to do what we were used to doing.