Port Arthur branch of NAACP ramping efforts to expand presence in community

Published 12:26 am Sunday, March 5, 2023

A long-standing Port Arthur organization impacted by the deaths of prominent leaders as well as COVID-19 is starting the year with a mission to re-engage and grow among the community.

The Port Arthur branch of the NAACP, one of approximately 2,200 in the nation, will meet Tuesday for the second time since the pandemic.

“We have two individuals that passed away that were very respected — Amos Evan and Raymond Scott — who led the way for the NAACP to be in Port Arthur,” said Constable Christopher Bates. “When they passed away, it needed to be revived.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Scott, a former president of the Port Arthur organization, died in 2003. Evan, who served as president for more than 30 years, died in 2009.

In 2015, Bates said, the group began to revamp, electing current president Rev. Kalan Gardner.

“We made sure we were back and operational and doing great things until COVID came,” Bates said. “We fell back down again.”

But with a mission to rejuvenate past initiatives while educating the younger generation, the group met in February and next week will elect officers.

While COVID is still an issue, Bates said they are working to ensure members — present and future — are comfortable.

“We believe most people have gotten vaccinated, and we’re still taking precautions to make sure people feel safe,” he said. “After elections, we plan to introduce a virtual model for members that can’t make it personally, don’t feel safe or are under the weather.”

The NAACP was created in 1909 and serves as the nation’s largest civil rights organization, according to information from its governing body. Issues addressed by local chapters include race and injustice, education innovation, environmental justice, economic inclusion, health and advocacy, among others.

And with the Port Arthur branch again growing, members are focused on future endeavors.

“We look forward to being progressive in the community as we have been in the past,” Bates said. “One of the main things we are looking to get back into are community-related events and community service. We want to make sure to have an NAACP youth council so the young people are exposed to how to run a meeting. We can enrich them with good things as they go through their journey.”

One of the group’s former projects that is a priority to revive is a scholarship banquet that awards college funds to students from Port Arthur.

“We want to be that voice for the community once more,” Bates said.

Prior to COVID, there were approximately 150 members. Organizers hope to double that.

Meetings take place on the first Tuesday of each month at Westside Development Center, 601 W. Rev. Ransom Howard Street, at 6:30 p.m. New members can join on site. Dues are $30 per year for those 21 and up, and $10 for those 20 and under.