By Latanya West, Managing Editor
Francine Maxwell was recently elected as the new President of the NAACP San Diego Branch. The branch is set to celebrate its 102nd year in 2021. We caught up with Maxwell last Friday to discuss her vision for the organization.
VV: It’s very evident that you’re passionate about making an impact. Tell us how that all got started?
FM: My mother sat me down and said to me, “To whom much is given, much is required.” So no matter what I had, I always made sure that I treated my neighbor as myself. That translated. If I didn’t like something I would learn about it and then I would change it.
I was a single mother. I bought my house in Southeastern San Diego, in Encanto, and grew up in Allied Gardens. I’m familiar with different geographic areas within San Diego. I happened to come up under the former Deputy Mayor, Mr. George Stevenson, and disliked things in my community. I did a lot of things in places like Encinitas and Poway with my friends. When I bought my house, I said, “Hey!, what’s up with my parks. They’re not the same?” So I met with the Councilman, and he gave me a clipboard and he took me for a walk and said, “Get ready to write some notes, young lady.”
Everything that I didn’t like he told me where to go to educate myself about it and then who to call to fix, who was responsible and how to hold people accountable. So I just began to do that and it was wonderful. We got our parks changed. We were able to procure matching grant funding from the City Parks and Rec Department to make sure that our children in this community had the same opportunity for Little League with the fencing the same way that North of 8 Little Leagues had.
VV: Sounds like you really believe that, with advocacy, you can create change.
FM: You just sit down and write a list. And that’s what I’m telling the young people. These are unprecedented times that we’re in. Children of all ethnicities and ages are getting civically engaged. So what I’m telling them – I believe in peaceful protest – but once you’re done with the peaceful protest, what are you going to do next?
You do your research. If you want to change the policies and procedures, first you have to read them and ask questions about them so that you can hold people accountable and then write a list of transformational things that you would like to see in your lifetime, and work on it. It’s not a sprint. This is a marathon.
VV: When did you get involved with the local branch?
FM: I’ve been a member since 2015, 2016. I used to attend years ago when Lei-Chala I. Wilson, Esq was president and she had her meetings in the BCA, the Black Contractors building. I would notice things that she was doing and just wanted to sit and listen and learn. Also, watching Doug Odom, Esq, watching Judge Trapp when she was president, they laid the foundation of what the NAACP should be and should become, no matter who is at the helm.
VV: What is your vision as president?
FM: To make sure that all 19 communities have a chair and they have a functioning, working committee. Everybody knows they can encounter civil rights issues. But they forget, this is a 100 percent volunteer organization.
VV: What issues are at the top of your list?
FM: I have a must have list: Veterans Affairs, Health, Criminal Justice. Education, Political Action, Community Liaison, Lifetime Membership. Membership is the organization’s lifeblood.
VV: What else would you like people to know?
FM: The opportunity. For people to understand what’s driving the whole organization, but especially San Diego’s president is the six game changers that address the major areas of inequality facing African-Americans, that are the focus of our work: Economic Sustainability, Education, Public Safety and Criminal Justice, Voting Rights and Political Representation, and expanding Youth and Young Adult Engagement expandable youth and young adult engagement.
For more information on the NAACP San Diego branch, and ways to volunteer, visit their website at www.sandiegonaacp.org.