Compton NAACP Elects First Woman President

Leiloni De Gruy | 1/17/2009, 11:55 a.m.

As city leaders attempt to live up to the adopted slogan €birthing a new Compton,€ the city€s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is experiencing a rebirth of its own.

For years the chapter has maintained a tense relationship with the national NAACP organization, considered virtually inactive amid accusations of shoddy bookkeeping, consistently incomplete paperwork and a pattern of noncompliance with regard to required minimums on the board of directors and of dues-paying members.
Things appear to be changing.
Last fall, the state NAACP conducted members-only balloting on the chapter€s behalf, resulting in the election of its first female president, Paulette Simpson-Gipson. The 46-year-old mother of three has already hit the ground running: Since the voting was held in November, the chapter has boosted its membership to 150, put most of its paperwork in order and hired an assistant treasurer to help with finances.

Born in 1963, Simpson-Gipson spent most of her formative years growing up in South Los Angeles, where she graduated from Washington High School before joining the U.S. Air Force at 17. Following that, she worked for the Defense Contract Administration, and has been a school bus driver with Torrance Unified School District for over 20 years. It was in that capacity that she became an activist €" joining AFRAM, a national caucus for the Service Employees International Union, to rally other workers to fight for their rights.

€After experiencing injustices and racial profiling at the workplace with promotions, that kind of prompted me to become active in the union because when I called my union to let them know what we were experiencing as Black workers, no one did anything about it,€ Simpson-Gipson said.

€So then we decided to get out of the union. As a matter of fact, my co-worker called the NAACP, and they said that they couldn€t help us, so that was one of my motivations. Because if [they] couldn€t help us, we have to help ourselves € become a stronger part and take them over, so that we can go back and help € anybody that needs help. The leaders in the past were just not doing it.€

Once she began to see the results of those efforts, it fired her up to do more. She came across the local NAACP chapter in 2007, and decided to join based on its powerful reputation. But after waiting in vain for the board to take action on various issues she brought to the table, Simpson-Gipson began organizing like-minded members to map out a new game plan for the organization.

Now, with the help of 27 new committee members €" ranging in age from 19 to 70, and representing diverse skill-sets €" she plans to pursue an ambitious agenda, raising the organization€s voice on matters ranging from law enforcement to education. Among her immediate goals are plans to build stronger ties to neighboring NAACP chapters, start a youth council, begin a mentoring program and raise funds for field trips.

But the chapter€s initial primary objective, Simpson-Gipson said, will be to establish better relationships between the community and those who govern and protect the city. In particular, she cited strained relations between the city€s people of color and law enforcement as an issue that must be tackled immediately.

€We€re going to stop some of the stuff that goes on in our community,€ said Simpson-Gipson, who is also an assistant pastor at a local Baptist church. €One of the things I want to do is build allies with our Sheriff€s Department, as well as with the city and elected officials. A lot of the things we go through are policy decision-making. If we are not connected to the policy makers, then a lot of the things that affect us we have no say-so in. So, my goal is to bridge that gap.€

Simpson-Gipson acknowledges that the tasks at hand are significant, but said she will rely on committee members€ expertise to aid her in her efforts.

€I€m not trying to go after the school board myself. I€m building an education team for that. I€m building teachers and people who know about education to specialize in education,€ she said. €I€m not a lawyer, but I€m building a team of lawyers €" a redress team €" that can attack the legal issues.€