Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Affordable Housing Among Focal Points at NAACP Town Hall

When Willie Flowers recently became president of the NAACP Maryland State Conference, he admitted one of his main duties will be to constantly remind people about the civil rights organization’s role to help the Black community.

Although local leaders say membership hasn’t decreased, the goal remains for more people to join the 110-year-old organization.

“We don’t lack relevance, but we lack members to stand up for folks who need help and haven’t been born yet,” said Flowers of Howard County. “The folks who came before us were fighting for us. Our forefathers didn’t know what we needed. They wanted us to be better off. You know how deep that is? That’s the spirit we have to reclaim. Just focus on Black folks seven days out of the week.”

The NAACP state conference, which organizes programs, assists local branches and advocacy efforts from a statewide perspective, plans to hold a town hall Jan. 18.

Beside the date signifying the birthday weekend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the discussion will be held in Prince George’s County. Arrangements on the specific location are still being determined.

One major topic of focus in the majority Black jurisdiction: housing. Based on research led by Elizabeth Johnson, who started her position as the state conference’s housing chair Dec. 2, at least 35,000 homes in the county have been lost to foreclosure since the financial crisis of 2008.

“Housing will be the catalyst … because everybody wants to have a roof over their head,” said Johnson of Temple Hills. “Housing touches every tentacle of your life.”

Johnson also serves as executive director of Strategic Housing Solutions Inc., a nonprofit organization established last year partners with the Prince George’s NAACP branch to help fight foreclosures.

The information attendees can receive includes the meaning of predatory lending, role of a servicer and documents to look for when seeking to purchase a home.

The most important document a homeowner needs, Johnson said, is “the note,” or a document which proves a homeowner owes money but should receive it back after making a final mortgage payment.

She simplified it this way: “It is like a mortgage burning ceremony at a Black church. [Church officials] were burning the note to show the property is paid for.”

Johnson has studied housing for five years as the housing chair for the Prince George’s branch. But she also suffered through the housing dilemma after she lost her custom-built home in St. Mary’s County.

“I lost my house to these bottom-feeders,” said Johnson, who says financial institutions continue to harm Black homeowners in Prince George’s and other minority communities. “I want to help people get through this housing crisis.”

Meanwhile, Prince George’s branch president Bob Ross said more grassroots efforts will be made in 2020.

For instance, he said leaders and branch members plan to greet people at Metro stations and visit various neighborhoods to explain the organization’s advocacy “needed more than ever in this political climate.”

One major objective will be to gain up to 10,000 new members.

“We should have a third of the 900,000 residents to be members of the NAACP,” Ross said. “If you don’t ask, you don’t get. We are going to start asking. We always want to help, but we need the community’s help as well.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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