Politics blamed for rift in Central Delaware NAACP

DOVER — The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Central Delaware branch is undergoing reorganization, officials said this week.

Delaware Conference Administrator Scot X. Esdaile said he wanted to avoid any negative publicity and described the matter as “a very sensitive issue.

We’re still restructuring, rebuilding, putting things in place. It takes time to achieve everything that needs to be done.”
According to Mr. Esdaile, “There were some problems over the years in that particular area. We’re working to regain credibility there and definitely see it as important.”

Mr. Esdaile opted not to elaborate on any supposed issues, saying he wasn’t going to look backward into the past, only move forward into the future.
When announcing his departure in February, then-president La Mar T. Gunn Sr. cited the opportunity to spend more time with his growing family (including a now 3-month-old child since added) and business.

“I am excited about the future of our community and the continued success of the Central Branch …” he said.
On Thursday Mr. Gunn said the “NAACP has unfortunately become a political machine and it shouldn’t be in politics at all. My being a conservative is what they were concerned about … They want to bring a more liberal agenda here, that’s all it is.”

Mr. Gunn described himself as “suspended” and said he’s had “zero” contact with the organization recently. Locally, however, “I still get a phone call every day” asking about the status of current branch operations. The past president said his office continues to receive checks and membership correspondence and the organization’s centraldenaacp.com website, Facebook and YouTube accounts “are still on my server, which I keep asking them to remove.” He described the situation as “ridiculous.”

Mr. Gunn is also shown in photographs posted on the Central Delaware branch website.

A contact phone number listed on the local branch website sends calls to the national office in Baltimore. Meeting and contact information are provided for Camden, Connecticut-based Mr. Esdaile and Derrick Tyrone Johnson in Jackson, Mississippi.

Mr. Gunn described Dover as “a special place. It’s great to promote change but people here want to work together to make it.

“I wasn’t going to fight police, which is how they wanted to approach it. All they wanted to do was fight, fight, fight and that’s not the way I believe this should be handled (in a community with this mindset.)

“I believe we make strides by coming together to find solutions.”
During his tenure, Mr. Gunn pointed to Central Delaware’s branch community impact, from spotlighting police misconduct allegations, hosting political candidate forums, serving meals to the needy and a Freedom Fund banquet that raised funds to boost the NAACP’s mission.

“When I inherited the branch it was bankrupt,” Mr. Gunn said. “I took money from my own pocket to (begin reviving operations).”
Also, Mr. Gunn said, “My life is my life and whenever I join something I go all out …

“The NAACP was a non-factor in this community until I came in, and I think most everyone would agree with that.
“My administration made the organization credible, which it hadn’t been in years.”
Mr. Gunn described the local branch as “the tail that wagged the dog for the entire state.”

Additionally, he said, “Regarding all the issues impacting Dover and the state there was only one go-to branch to address what was going on. “… Because of my positions they threw me out.”
Ann Smith has been the point person in Delaware and “has been doing a fantastic job working” to re-establish operations here, Mr. Esdaile said. An attempt to reach Ms. Smith for comment was unsuccessful.

A strong branch in central Delaware has the potential to greatly impact the NAACP’s mission, Mr. Esdaile said.
“It’s the state capitol, civil rights are very important,” he said. “The governor is in the area. all the legislators are nearby, there’s Delaware State University, a (Historically Black College and University).

“We definitely want to establish a beachhead in the area.”
In an online “About Us” section that lists a Feb. 12, 1909 founding date, the NAACP is described as “the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization. Its more than half-million members and supporters throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, campaigning for equal opportunity and conducting voter mobilization.”

The organization posted that “As ONE Family we can build a community of love and support.” and “We want to hear your struggles and learn about the many ideas you have for a better Central Delaware.”
Dover City Councilman David Anderson, a NAACP member, said the organization is vital to continuing a push for more equality and understanding in all facets of life here.

“It serves a very important purpose in the community, it’s an organization that represents people who feel often excluded whether it be in government, education, employment or elsewhere,” Mr. Anderson said.

“The local branch has been a positive advocate for many people who would have otherwise been forgotten.”

An announcement would be made when a permanent president is appointed, Mr. Esdaile said. Tracy Palmer was named interim president in February soon after Mr. Gunn left and she no longer serves in the role.

After initially saying this week that she would provide a statement, Ms. Palmer did not follow up.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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