New NAACP Pittsburgh chapter leader a civil rights veteran

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Constance Parker, newly elected president of the Pittsburgh branch of the NAACP, is not new to the issues important to the Hill District-headquartered organization.

She's been working with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on those issues -- eradicating violence in communities and providing access to education, healthcare and jobs, to name a few -- for more than 25 years.

The issues may be similar, but she thinks the overall situation has gotten worse, citing joblessness experienced by many in recent years and the gun-related violence as two contributing factors.

"I think it's worse," she said in a phone interview Thursday. "I think it's a crisis now."

It's a realistic picture, she said, but she doesn't intend for it to be bleak.

Ms. Parker, who begins her two-year term as president next month, said she views her leadership role as providing a source of hope that the picture -- for the black community but also the community at large -- is going to get brighter.

"I don't want a bleak picture painted," she said. "That's why I'm working."

She will replace M. Gayle Moss, whose election in 2004 made her the first female president in the chapter's history. Ms. Parker will serve with Charlene McAbee, first vice president; Marilyn Barnett-Waters, second vice president; Johnnie Miott, third vice president; Anita Walker, secretary; and Morton Stanfield Jr., treasurer.

The NAACP currently has about 1,400 members, said Twanda Carlisle, who is Ms. Parker's daughter and who works at the NAACP headquarters.

Ms. Parker, 69, of Penn Hills, has worked for PennDOT for 18 years, and is the community relations coordinator for District 11. She has held various positions with the NAACP Pittsburgh branch, most recently as first vice president.

She was one of several NAACP members who spoke forcefully against Pennsylvania's voter identification bill, calling it a "major civil rights issue" at a news conference at the Freedom Unlimited building in the Hill District last year.

Voter identification will continue to be a focus of the NAACP as she begins her term, Ms. Parker said. She also said the group will urge increased gun control and better access to healthcare, good educations and jobs.

Especially when it comes to jobs, she said, people are despairing.

"They want someone to be the voice for them."

neigh_city - region

Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707.


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