Harry T. Alexander, president of the Washington branch of the NAACP, has called on Maryland and Virginia branches of the organization to support full self-government for the District of Columbia.
Alexander, a former D.C. Superior Court judge, made his appeal at the NAACP Region VII Leadership Traning Conference, held last weekend in Arlington.
William H. Penn Jr., acting director of branches and field offices, said that the conference was intended to "teach our leadership some of the techniques and tools they can use to implement the association's policies."
While Alexander's appeal is not binding on Maryland and Virginia branches, penn said, those branches may decide to adopt resolutions supporting full self-government for the District, and forward those resolutions to the national office of the NAACP.
If sufficient resolutions are passed by local branches, the national office will consider placing a self-government resolution on the agenda for this summer's national convention.
Should the national body then adopt that resolution, local branches will be required to lobby their congressmen and senators in support of it.
The Region VII conference is held each year for leaders and members of District, Maryland and Virginia branches of the NAACP. More than 200 members attended.
A significant number of the sessions were devoted to youth.
"We want to bring about a closer relationship in this region between youth and youth, and between youth and adults," said Jesse W. Brown, a District resident and chairman of Region VII. "One of the things this conference is founded on is the need for youth to be more informed of conditions that exist in our society, and to make them realize the part they have to play."
In part, the concern with membership and young people at the conference can be attributed to the Mississippi crisis of 1975. When a Mississippi judge ruled that the NAACP must pay $1.25 million in damages to 12 white merchants, the civil rights organization found itself in the worst crisis of its 67-year history.
Though acknowledging that "financially we're in bad shape. We haven't gotten out of the woods yet," Penn said, "The Mississippi Crisis . . . demonstrated that what we are fighting for is recognized by the masses of people in the country . . . It gave us a lift, because it showed people cared."
Betty Holton, a past president of the D.C. branch of the NAACP and a member of the nation board of directors, called the Mississippi Crisis "a blessing in disguise."
"We were beginning to feel complacent" she added.
Holton said the Washington branch contributed $150,000 to the national office, and "these contributions ranged from 4 quarters taped to a 3 by 5 card . . . to $2,500."
The D.C. branch began the reactivation of its youth council in 1975, Holton said, and during the first six months gained 6 members.
"We have now grown to 63," Holton said. "It isn't a lot, but it's growth. We conduct workships, and for the first time in 10 years, we had 5 youth delegates to the national convention (last year)."
As examples of the organizations District activities, she cited an adult education program the branch conducts at the Opportunities Industrialization Center at 16th and Park Road NW.
"This program is designed for people already employed in the federal government at lower levels," she sadi, explaining that participants are taught reading, writing and mathematical skills "so that they can move up on the employment ladder."
"We are working with the 14th and U area of the city rather extensively," Holton said. "That area is heavily populated with older citizens . . . We found that the nearest grocery was at 14th and Park Road. We made considerable efforts to get another supermarket." She said that another supermarket has opened in the area.
Holton also said that te NAACP was instrumental in getting the Redevelopment Land Agency to allow the opening of a day care center in a building at 14th and U that had been vacated by the Peoples Drug Store chain.
She said the Washington branch is currently working to devise a program to go into Children's Hospital once the hospital moves to its new facilities in Northeast Washington.
"We want something there that will serve the community," Holton said.
"These may seem like small things," she said, "but one of the things that I've learned is that it's possible to spread yourself too thin, so we decided to concentrate on one area of the city . . .