A group of local activists want to start a new NAACP chapter to fill the void left by the moribund Madison affiliate and take their mission countywide.
"Dane County does have issues and the issues, they don’t just lie in Madison," says Gwen Jones, the interim chair of the new group. "That’s why we decided to look at the entire county of Dane and really expand our focus."
Spurred by the "Race to Equity" report from the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families last fall, the group plans to attack racial disparities in education, criminal justice and other areas.
That report, which measured 40 indicators of well-being, found that in Dane County, African Americans fare worse than whites in nearly every one, and in fact suffer disparities in some areas that rival those of any other community in the nation.
"Everything from economic development to incarceration rates to poverty and education, all of that," says Jones. "And those are things we really want to focus and concentrate on because we have a lot of groups in Madison focusing on individual components, whereas the NAACP historically has been more of an overarching organization."
The group also plans to take on issues that impact minorities on the state level, like voter ID laws, health care and higher education.
The nascent group is scheduled to gather on Tuesday for an inaugural meeting, during which they hope to confirm that they have the necessary 100 members to start a chapter. A membership costs $30.
The meeting will start at 6 p.m. at the Madison-Area Urban Ministry, 2300 S. Park St in the Villager Mall.
From there, the group will submit its application to the state NAACP, which will in turn submit it to the national organization.
"Then we'll be off and running," Jones says.
Nino Amato, who is serving as interim vice chair of the group, says the group should have word from the national organization in March and will meet sometime in May to elect a permanent slate of officers.
Amato, who served as president of the Madison Equal Opportunities Commission and chairman of former Mayor Sue Bauman's Task Force on Race Relations, was active in the Madison chapter some years back. But he says the charter for the group has recently been suspended. The Madison group's website hasn't been updated since 2010.
Amato says he doesn't know the details and directed further inquiries to state NAACP Vice President Wendell Harris, who didn't return a call.