An effort is underway to start a local chapter of the NAACP.
So far, less than half of the minimum required 100 dues-paying members needed to get a local charter has 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 relocated from Washington state to Fort Mill in 2009, Faircloth was a member of her local chapter before moving to the Southeast.
“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 Fort Mill Township should have its own chapter. She said a local charter would cover incorporated and unincorporated Fort Mill, Tega Cay and the Indian Land Panhandle, including Van Wyck.
“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 feels is a subpar annual program to honor Dr. King, including the one held this year. Faircloth said she would like to help the town plan and organize a better MLK Day celebration. She said she brought the issue up with town Parks and Recreation Director Brown Simpson, who’s department is tasked by Mayor Danny Funderburk with organizing the program, but wasn’t satisfied.
Simpson said he doesn’t recall ever meeting or talking to Faircloth and declined to comment further.
Primarily though, she’s concerned that only a small number of Fort Mill’s minorities eligible to vote go to the polls.
“On election day, I see very few, or no blacks at the polls. 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?” Faircloth said.
“A lot of people here are very complacent and I want people to realize that your children, your grandchildren, your great grand children may run into problems later in life and wouldn’t you like to put something in place to help them?”
Since last fall she’s 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.
Now, Faircloth and a couple of other individuals trying to create a Fort Mill chapter meet regularly at Starbucks in Baxter and plan their outreach. 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 relocated to Fort Mill from Buffalo, N.Y., in 1996.
She said 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 targets minorities.
“I’m seeing profiling of Hispanics similar to what African Americans went through,” Cureton said. “It’s completely de-humanizing. 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 Fort Mill Township.
“I think they have enough going on,” she said.