“The Time Is Now” for the new president of the Philly chapter
Purple Queen Blackwell reporting here for WHYY’S “You Oughta Know,” a popular series covering people, places & events off the beaten path in Philadelphia. Airs weekly, Fridays at 7:30pm on WHYY-TV12 (excerpts of this interview were featured in Nov 2021)
Catherine Hicks, a longtime publisher of the Philadelphia Sunday Sun, recently became only the second woman elected President of the NAACP’s Philadelphia chapter. Her leadership theme “The Time Is Now” includes a focus on crime, educational equity, financial literacy, and Black homeownership.
Saj “Purple” Blackwell interviewed the new president about her history with the NAACP and her plans for moving the Philadelphia chapter forward.
So, how did you begin this journey?
My family was always involved in the NAACP. So that’s how I first began working for the cause. But I really got serious when I met J. Whyatt Mondesire (the former president) and started working with him. I got more engaged with the Philadelphia branch by chairing committees and helping to organize their outreach and membership drives. The path to leadership felt like a natural one at that point but, from a community engagement perspective, it was part of a journey that included my time with the Sunday Sun. We were always looking for ways to get more involved at the newspaper and moving into leadership at NAACP meant more ways to help our community.
What’s been your main challenge so far?
It’s making sure that we’re getting information to the people and staying in contact. One of the complaints we’ve gotten in the past is that people don’t know what’s going on with the NAACP. Obviously the pandemic slowed everything down as far as just being able to disseminate information or having our meetings publicly. So we’ve had to focus on improving our social media presence. But we’re also ensuring we have as much contact info as possible for our membership — emails, telephone numbers, street addresses. There are many ways to reach people – not everybody’s online – so we want to be able to keep in touch in every way we can. I want to make sure that people get engaged and the only way they can get engaged is if they know what’s going on.
Crime is a main focus of your administration – how do you plan to deal with gun violence?
The first thing we’ve been doing is getting young people engaged. It’s critically important to hear their voices and get them involved in helping to solve the problem. It’s on all of us to lend a hand.
The second thing is to partner with organizations that have experience with gun violence and support them as much as possible. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to this issue. In fact, it makes us all less effective if we’ve got organizations all doing their own thing. There’s experience in the community already and we need to leverage that so we can maximize our effectiveness in saving lives.
Lastly, we need a sense of urgency. There’s a lot of crises facing us at once – COVID, joblessness, and gun violence to name a few. The time is now to really step up and partner with community organizations and citizens. That’s priority one.
WEIGHING IN: Catherine Hicks shares her reactions to two recent court verdicts, reflecting two very different sides of American justice.
We are at a loss for words with the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict. The legal system did not deliver justice for those killed in a peaceful protest against police brutality and violence. The outcome of this case proves race does matter; and white supremacy continues to have a strong hold on America’s justice system. The NAACP exists to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of all citizens, and to eliminate the racial barriers that still exist in the United States. This is why our work at the NAACP is so important, and why we must continue to fight for justice despite this disappointing verdict.
Ahmaud Arbery’s Killers
Justice was served! As we moved into the Thanksgiving holiday season we were thankful for this verdict. Let us be reminded that although justice was served in the Arbery trial, a life was still lost and countless other lives continue to be lost, because our justice system is still flawed!
For Black people in America, it’s been proven that we do not have the same liberties as our white counterparts. Our boys can’t wear hoodies, we aren’t safe in the comforts of our own home, and we can’t take a jog in the neighborhood because someone could become fearful of their life.
Ahmaud, an innocent Black man who was jogging down a road in Glynn County, Georgia was murdered by a white father and son just because he happened to be in their subdivision. Daily we see how Black people are criminalized for just living, and we must continue to stand up against that criminalization.
We should also not forget the many senseless lives being lost daily in Black communities! Men, women and children, gunned down in the streets like animals. If we’re going to hold others accountable for killing our people, we must stand up and hold those who look like us accountable as well. They too must pay the price for their reckless regard for another person’s life.
The NAACP Philadelphia Branch pledges to always stand in solidarity with other organizations and communities across the nation to continue the fight for justice.
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