Salisbury-Rowan NAACP President Gemale Black seeking state branch’s top spot

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 21, 2021

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Salisbury-Rowan NAACP President Gemale Black is on the ballot this weekend to “reset, restart and refocus” the North Carolina NAACP.

Black, 32, has served as the local branch’s president for five years now, but decided to “put his name in the hat” to do more at the state level. He’s seeking the state organization’s top spot. Black said he appreciates the work of past president, Rev. William J. Barber II, and current president, Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, who was elected in 2017, but Black said there are some internal administrative issues and that it’s “time to do more.”

Black said he wants to reset, restart and refocus the state branch on its mission and vision of “justice and equality for all persons” as “the oldest and boldest” civil rights action group in the nation. The NAACP was founded in 1909 on the centennial of former President Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

Black said he wants to strengthen the state’s support of all 80 branches to ensure “local issues are being addressed.” Additionally, he wants to build the youth and college chapters because, he said, they are in need of more development and engagement.

If elected, Black said he’d be the second-youngest state NAACP president in the U.S.

Black said the most pressing issues include the ongoing fight against voter ID laws and the pardoning of Dontae Sharpe, a Black man from Greenville who served 26 years in prison until 2019 when it was determined he was wrongfully convicted for a 1994 murder. The NAACP and other activists have called on Gov. Roy Cooper to formally pardon Sharpe.

The North Carolina NAACP filed a federal and state lawsuit against the implementation of a voter ID requirement after it was enacted in 2018, alleging the law included the same racial discriminatory intent courts say tarnished the 2013 law. The other lawsuit alleges the General Assembly didn’t have the authority to place the issue on the ballot. The only reason the GOP-led legislature had the 60% supermajority needed was because of unconstitutional gerrymandering, the North Carolina NAACP said in its second suit. Both lawsuits are awaiting trial.

Locally, Black has led the city’s Cease Fire initiative, a partnership with Salisbury Police Department to engage more of the community in helping to reduce gun violence and serve as de-escalators in potentially violent situations.

“I’m good at bridging gaps and building relationships throughout our city,” Black said. “And I think I can do that on a broader scale at the state level.”

Black said each branch also can elect a number of delegates determined by the size of the branch. Salisbury-Rowan has four delegates who will cast their votes during the state virtual conference on Saturday. Spearman is seeking re-election, and Black is also challenged by Deborah Maxwell of New Hanover County.

If elected, Black said he’d like to pass the torch in the local branch to another young person who can bring in fresh, new ideas to Salisbury and Rowan County.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.