Dorothy Jenkins, new NAACP president in Charleston | Photo by Herb Frazier

Retired Charleston County special education teacher Dorothy Jenkins is the new president of the Charleston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) following a Sunday election where she was charged with rebuilding the civil rights organization thrown off track during the pandemic.

Jenkins was among six new officers seated to lead the state’s oldest NAACP branch during elections that should have been held in November. Branch treasurer Jerome Clemons was re-elected while the Rev. Joseph Darby, the former first vice president, will lead the group’s political action committee. Darby had served as president after former president Dot Scott resigned in October

Brenda C. Murphy, president of the NAACP South Carolina State Conference, conducted the election because of a need to reorganize the local branch, she said. 

“The branch has been non-compliant for two years,” she said prior to voting at Greater St. Luke AME Church on Gordon Street. Murphy urged that members “who want to run [for office] should be ready, willing and able to do the job. This is not a social group. This is an advocacy group.” 

An angry Scott, who had been branch president for two decades, rejected Murphy’s comment that the branch was in non-compliance for two years. 

“We were not in non-compliance,” said Scott, who stressed she resigned before elections were scheduled in November. Scott said she should not be blamed for what happened after she resigned. Scott said she didn’t attend Sunday’s meeting because she didn’t receive a meeting notice.  

Branch members should have voted in November through Election Buddy, a new online voting method implemented by the NAACP’s national office. Instead, paper ballots were passed among 21 branch members. Jenkins received 12 votes. Nine votes were cast for Karen Wright Chisolm.

Chisolm was later elected by acclamation as first vice president along with other new officers. Other new officers are: Pearl Givens, second vice president; Stephen Cofer-Shabica, assistant treasurer; Curtis Inabinett Jr., secretary; Katrina Marie Tekakwitha, assistant secretary; and at-large members Darby, Vickie Stuckey, Nancy Button, Barbara Wilson and Johnnie Majors.

Murphy urged the new officers, who will serve two-year terms, and members to abide by the branch’s bylaw that requires the executive committee and general membership to hold separate monthly meetings. 

“I want to see a strategic plan from this branch,” said Murphy, who said she plans to attend those meetings. The general membership and executive committee meets at 6 p.m. the fourth Thursday and first Tuesday, respectively, of each month at Greater St. Luke.

Looking to the future

Jenkins, a 40-year member of the local branch, was assistant treasurer and a long-time member of the executive board. She served as assistant secretary in the 1990s and political action chairperson in the late 1980s. 

“This is the first time I’ve stepped up to this position because we are in such a dire need of good leadership,” she told the Charleston City Paper. “I joined the NAACP because I saw the injustice that was taking place in our community and there are still issues we have to work on.”

Reorganizing the branch, Jenkins said, is due in part to the pandemic “and we had issues with meetings and getting things handled. But now that we are on track we want to stay on track and move forward. I don’t want to point fingers at anyone, but we need to look to the future.”

The meeting Sunday drew mostly longtime, older members of the branch except for Marcus McDonald, lead organizer of the Black Lives Matter chapter who joined the NAACP last year before Scott resigned as president. 

McDonald said he has recommended that the NAACP “be more intentional about bringing young folks in. You can say you want [young people] to be involved but unless you give them space, it won’t work. They can do a lot better putting the word out on social media where a lot of people my age get information.”

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