NAACP Albuquerque branch celebrates 100 years - Albuquerque Journal

NAACP Albuquerque branch celebrates 100 years

From left, Harold Bailey, Jesse Dompreh, E. Lena Brown, Josef Powdrell and Joseph Frank Dabney chat during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Albuquerque NAACP on Saturday at the Veterans' Memorial in Albuquerque. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)
From left, Harold Bailey, Jesse Dompreh, E. Lena Brown, Josef Powdrell and Joseph Frank Dabney chat during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Albuquerque NAACP on Saturday at the Veterans’ Memorial in Albuquerque. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

About 75 people gathered Saturday afternoon to pay homage to the 100th anniversary of the NAACP’s Albuquerque branch at the Veterans’ Memorial, with a celebration that included speeches and awards.

The event was presided over by the current president of the local chapter, Harold Bailey, who serves as a volunteer, leading meetings held twice a month that are usually attended by between 15 and 50 of the organization’s 125 members, who include non-black participants.

Bailey was president in 2000 for a two-year term, and, after serving as executive director of the New Mexico Office of African American Affairs, returned to his past post as president in 2013, after retiring from his state position the year before.

“I’m proud to be part of this rich history,” he said in an interview last week.

He introduced the keynote speaker for the event, Carol K.O. Lee, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, who said both organizations share common goals.

“We are honored to stand alongside you and be a part of seeking equality and justice,” Lee said to applause from the group. She called the 100th anniversary a “fantastic milestone,” and said she looked forward to “new collaborations” between both organizations, since they both aim to protect citizens against hate crimes and civil rights violations.

Previous local chapter presidents also came to the stage to receive awards for their service over the years, one of whom sounded emotional as he talked about the organization’s local legacy.

“I can’t tell you how great this day is in my eyes, how powerful,” said Josef Powdrell, 67, co-owner of the barbecue restaurant Mr. Powdrell’s.

He has lived in Albuquerque for half a century, after relocating from Texas as a teenager. He said he’s been involved with the NAACP since he was 9 years old, at a time when membership cost about 25 cents a year.

He served as 22nd president of the Albuquerque chapter in the mid-2000s.

“The city of Albuquerque is a more equitable place to live because of the presence of this organization,” he said in his speech.

The original charter of the Albuquerque branch of the NAACP was on display during the celebration on Saturday. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)
The original charter of the Albuquerque branch of the NAACP was on display during the celebration on Saturday. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

The local chapter began Jan. 5, 1915, after another civil rights group, the Independent Society of New Mexico, decided to affiliate with the NAACP in order to be able to ally with a larger organization with a national reach.

The NAACP began in 1909 on a national level – three years before New Mexico became the 47th state on Jan. 6, 1912.

During his time in office, Powdrell said, “It was more than I could imagine. I had experiences that made me grow up; I had some experiences that made me cry.”

In an interview earlier in the week, he said he got involved advocating for local black people who’d had incidents with law enforcement, private employers, and staff members at retail outlets and entertainment venues and who then contacted the local NAACP chapter for support when they felt that their rights were violated because they were black.

Powdrell cited 17 conversations with the Albuquerque Police Department’s top brass during his term in office, as well as his trips to court on behalf of members and his attempts, sometimes successful, other times less so, to resolve neighborhood disputes.

“It’s a commendable thing to have gotten done for 100 years,” Powdrell said. “It takes presence; it takes membership; and it takes interactions with local authorities.”

Bailey encouraged new generations of young members to keep the organization and its legacy alive by joining and remaining active in the group.

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