By: Tony McCray
The NAACP Pensacola Branch and Red Cross National and Regional officials met in Pensacola to follow-up on the tornado that slammed into the Town of Century in north Escambia County. Some of the issues brought up at that meeting still continue in the area according to Rev. Henry Hawkins, a resident of Century.
Smyther Fallen, the National Partner Manager for the Southeast United States and the Caribbean; Bob Pearce, the Regional Disaster Officer covering North Florida, and Tanya Hollaway, Manager of Regional Mass Care and Logistics met with Eladies Sampson, NAACP Pensacola Branch President; Dr. Joyce Hopson, NAACP Pensacola Branch Secretary; Rodney Jones NAACP Brach Executive Committee; Tony McCray, NAACP Executive Committee, and Rev. Carl Reeves, a NAACP Pensacola Branch member with extensive knowledge of low-income housing and extensive contact with citizens in Century.
The meeting began with Bob Pearce thanking the NAACP for their partnership and leadership, and spoke about the opportunity for the two organizations to come together on numerous ongoing initiatives. The Red Cross can use help with identifying and reaching out to communities that we can help make safer. Pearce discussed the new organizational structure of the Red Cross, explaining that the Northwest Florida chapter now has 2 offices covering 10 counties. The Executive Director of the chapter is serves in the capacity of a major fundraiser and public relations professional interacting with elected officials who typically face the community during high profile events/disasters. Weeks after the tornado there was still a huge quality of life issue with the fact that there was electrical service in a large swath of the areas. Gulf Power has restored power to their poles, but that’s where the complications began. There is an issue with the power not being connected from the pole to the home’s power source. The city is asking that homeowners pay for a permit and get an electrician to complete the setup. For many families in poverty that process was seen a major road block for the Century to return to normal.The NAACP responded with humanitarian assistance in collaboration with Rev. Tisdale of the Epps Center, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and Trinity Presbyterian Church, and other volunteers sent toiletries and 250 box lunches. There had, also, been accusations of discrimination in the recovery and assistance process by local residents. Rev. Michael Stewart, a Century pastor, Rev. Henry Hawkins, a resident of Century, and Dr. Marilyn Robinson, the Director of the Carver Community Center echoed the concerns of the residents.The African-American community on the southeast side of Century along Jefferson Avenue was especially hard hit. Dr. Robinson reported that the Wesley Chapel CME Church will have to be rebuilt because of the extensive damage it received. Additionally, Executive Committee member and 2nd Vice President of the NAACP Pensacola Branch, Minister Rodney Jones, met with County Commissioner Steve Barry in a very cordial meeting to discuss concerns with the recovery efforts. The local NAACP branch will continue to work with the Red Cross and government officials on the recovery of Century from the devastating tornado.