FORT MILL — An effort is under way to start a Fort Mill chapter of the NAACP.
So far, less than half of the required 100 dues-paying members needed to get a local charter have been signed up, but organizer Lisa Faircloth said she’s certain more will follow.
“There is no doubt in my mind we will get to – and exceed – the hundred,” Faircloth said.
A former college admissions official who moved from Washington state to Fort Mill in 2009, Faircloth was a member of her local chapter there before moving here.
“When I first came here, I was kind of surprised they don’t have one,” she said. “Then I went to the local Martin Luther King Day celebration they had (in Fort Mill) and I thought, ‘They’re not doing much for people of color here.’
“It’s important that they have a local branch of the NAACP here.”
Faircloth said she attended some events held by the Rock Hill NAACP and went to Columbia for the state convention and became even more convinced that the Fort Mill area should have its own chapter.
A local charter would cover incorporated and unincorporated Fort Mill, Tega Cay and the panhandle of Lancaster County, including Indian Land and Van Wyck, she said.
“I did some research and realized how big Fort Mill really is and looked at the ethnic makeup and was impressed by the number of minorities here,” she said.
Some of the motivation, Faircloth said, comes from what she called a subpar annual community program to honor King.
Faircloth said she would like to help the town plan and organize a better MLK Day celebration.
Primarily though, she’s concerned that only a small number of Fort Mill’s minority residents who are eligible to vote actually go to the polls.
“On Election Day, I see very few or no blacks at the polls,” Faircloth said. “I said to myself, ‘Where are all the black people? Why am I not seeing black people when I go to the polls? Why aren’t churches taking their vans and going to the polls?
“A lot of people here are very complacent, and I want people to realize that your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren may run into problems later in life, and wouldn’t you like to put something in place to help them?”
Getting the word out
Since last fall Faircloth has been making the rounds of Fort Mill’s historically black churches, such as Jerusalem Baptist, United AME Zion and Bethlehem Baptist – all in the Paradise community – to speak to the congregations and leave literature and NAACP applications.
“We’re trying to make contact with the various churches to let them know we need their support,” she said.
Another organizer, Diane Cureton of Fort Mill, said her motivation is similar to Faircloth’s.
“Some of the things I’m concerned about, there doesn’t appear to be any minority representation as far as Town Council members and school board members and the minority population in Fort Mill has grown considerably,” said Cureton, who moved to Fort Mill from Buffalo, N.Y., in 1996.
She also worries that recent state legislation, such as a law giving police the right to check drivers’ immigration status during routine stops, which she said is state-sanctioned “profiling,” and a photo ID requirement at polling places, unfairly target minorities.
“I’m seeing profiling of Hispanics similar to what African-Americans went through,” Cureton said. “It’s completely dehumanizing.
“There needs to be education and awareness of what lawmakers are doing so people can keep up with the issues we face and that might impact our lives.”
Cureton was asked why she thinks the Rock Hill NAACP can’t also cover the Fort Mill area.
“They have enough going on,” she said.