By: Tony McCray
The newly elected NAACP Pensacola Branch President, Minister Rodney Jones, was a very busy civil rights leader this past Saturday, August 26th at The Event Center on Pensacola Navy Blvd. This was the Pensacola Branch’s 27th Annual Banquet that provided an updated “call to arms” by its leadership and the guest speaker, Omar Neal. Neal is the former Mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama, and the CEO of You Got the Power Enterprises, Inc. The message from Neal in a post banquet interview with the Gulf Coast Voice was, “The bell is ringing. Recess is over and it is time to go to work on the many issues facing the Black Community throughout this nation.”
Neal further stated that, “The bell is ringing is a strategic metaphor that it is time for our community to get down to business and address the issues in Escambia County of jail overcrowding, the lack of access to capital for Black organizations and businesses, and on the national level, raising our collective voices to challenge the civil asset forfeiture and the rise of racial tensions during President Trump’s administration.” NAACP Pensacola Branch President Minister Rodney Jones stated that, “Omar Neal hit the nail on the head that it is time for this community to address the issues of jail overcrowding in our corrections facilities and the various issues in our Escambia County educational system.” President Jones has visited the Escambia County Jail and saw the crowded conditions himself with “inmates sleeping on the floor”. He has also met with Escambia County School District Superintendent Malcolm Thomas on various concerns in the school district.
History documents the leadership of Pensacola’s Black Community by its leadership in education with the establishment of the first Black Junior College, Booker T. Washington, Jr. College. Additionally, the leadership of Blacks in the State stands out as Florida’s Black leadership organized nine branches of the NAACP from 1939 to 1940. The plan for the branches to work together was formulated in 1941. Then, in another historical step, there was a meeting called on October 17, 1941, and the first National Association of the Advancement of Colored People State Conference of Branches in the nation was established in Florida.
President Jones acknowledged, from his owned personal experiences and his own perspective, that the bell is indeed ringing and the recess is over and it is time for the local branch of the NAACP and its civil rights allies to tackle the education and incarceration issues.