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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 27, 2003

Benefit to aid Hawai'i NAACP chapter

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

The local chapter of the NAACP, recently revitalized with an injection of new members, is asking the public to help the civil-rights organization gather the finances needed to become a more active force in the community.

Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Celebration

• Sponsored by The Honolulu-Hawai'i NAACP and Hawai'i Friends of Civil Rights

• 6-11 p.m. Jan. 16

• Ala Moana Hotel Hibiscus Ballroom

• $40 per person (checks, made payable to NAACP-Hawai'i, are due to be mailed by Monday to: NAACP, P.O. Box 6, Honolulu, HI 96810

• 599-3920

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, along with a coalition called Hawai'i Friends of Civil Rights, has planned a benefit dinner-dance for 6 p.m. Jan. 16 at the Ala Moana Hotel Hibiscus Ballroom. Reservations are due Monday (see box).

The event will be largely social, but several special guests, including newly registered member U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, will speak about why they joined and how they see the role of the civil-rights organization, said Faye Kennedy, first vice president of the chapter.

The NAACP, long seen as an African-American group, started as a multiracial organization, she said, adding that the chapter's newest members are a cosmopolitan group.

Despite the need for money — the means to establish an office and meet other needs — the fund-raiser marks a rosier start for the year than 2003 presented. In March, with membership dwindling to about two dozen, the chapter was faced with dissolution .

By year's end, however, about 125 members had enrolled and new officers were elected and trained by NAACP regional leaders, said its executive secretary, Barbara Abrew.

There was some thought during the chapter's lowest ebb that a civil-rights group in the integrated culture of Hawai'i lacks a sense of urgency. But although she underscored that Hawai'i is a basically successful model of a multicultural community, Kennedy said racism and other forms of discrimination do exist here.

"People are surprised when it's a melting pot by reputation that there is any discrimination and that it does affect all groups," she said.

Still, there's curiosity about the islands' multiethnic culture. Abrew has been to the past few NAACP conventions and has a theory about why the national organization has helped the Hawai'i chapter get back on its feet.

"I met (national president) Kweisi Mfume, and he said he wants to take the national convention to Hawai'i," she said.

"Their intention is eventually to hold the convention here and see what it is that allows us to live at least in tolerance."