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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Local NAACP in danger due to low membership

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Honolulu branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is in danger of folding after 43 years because Hawai'i membership in the nation's oldest civil rights organization has fallen to an all-time low.

Online registration available

• Annual membership fees are $30 for adults.

• For more information, or to sign up, go to https://www.naacp.org/join.php.

• Those who register online should type Honolulu-Hawaii in the "unit affiliation" box, and notify the Hawai'i group at naacphonoluluhi@hotmail.com.

• Or, sign up by calling toll free (866) 63-NAACP (636-2227).

• For information, call Benny King Jr., 671-4726.

The branch, with 27 members on the rolls, needs at least 23 more before July, when the NAACP national organization will meet at a convention and may rule on the fate of the local chapter, said Benny King Jr., president of the group's Honolulu-Hawai'i Branch.

King, a Leilehua High School math teacher who has been with the group since 1991, said membership in recent years has been about 150 but dropped to about 60 last year. He attributed the decline to various factors, including the transience of the members and the Islands' fairly low-key approach to civil rights issues.

"We live in paradise, and people assume things are great," King said. "But there are a lot of discrimination cases going on. That's why we have a civil rights commission here, and they're busy."

Historically, many of the Hawai'i branch's members have been military people, King said. Lately, military members who might be active ordinarily have had war concerns foremost in mind, he said, and other veteran members have moved away.

However, he said, the NAACP was formed by black and white leaders interested in improving the status of all minorities; membership always has been racially mixed.

Ken Akinaka, a Japanese American, said he joined a few months ago partly because his girlfriend is black. But he has always been involved in civil rights organizations and felt in accord with NAACP goals.

"I believe in what they've been trying to do for years, Akinaka said. "I didn't realize that it was not just for African Americans."

A membership drive event, including entertainment, is set for May 17 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Harris United Methodist Church, but leaders hope to meet the membership requirement before then.