Constance Parker has worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for more than 25 years.
She knows the issues important to the Hill District-headquartered organization, such as eradicating violence in communities and providing access to education, health care and jobs, to name a few.
Starting next month, she'll have the chance to address those issues as president of the Pittsburgh chapter of the NAACP.
Ms. Parker, who was elected president last week, said in a phone interview that although the issues are the same ones she has been working on for more than two decades, she thinks the overall situation in the Pittsburgh region has become worse. She cited joblessness experienced by many in recent years and gun-related violence as two contributing factors.
"I think it's worse," she said. "I think it's a crisis now."
It's a realistic picture, she said, but she doesn't intend for it to be a bleak one.
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 also works at the NAACP headquarters.
Mrs. Parker, 69, of Penn Hills has worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation for 18 years and is the community relations coordinator for District 11, according to a department spokesman. 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, greater diversity and better access to health care, education and jobs.
Especially when it comes to jobs, she said, people are despairing. "They want someone to be the voice for them."
Kaitlynn Riely: email@example.com or 412-263-1707.