The Saginaw branch of the NAACP outlined some of its activities in 2018 at a news conference at the Andersen Enrichment Center Wednesday, January 23.
Last year during the organization’s State of the Community address, officials outlined six key areas the NAACP would focus on to improve the lives of people in Saginaw and Saginaw County, including education, criminal justice, health care, civic engagement, economic opportunity and environmental justice. The NAACP advocated for people of color in and around the community over the past year, hosting forums and promoting political ideals to ensure people are represented equally and fairly.
Saginaw NAACP president Terry Pruitt says their relationship with the community is a positive one.
“I think there’s lots of agreement on the need to sit at the table and resolve some of the questions and issues that remain on the table. I think there’s opportunity for disagreement… I understand that when you’re a political decision maker, there are other things that come into the environment that impact your decisions.”
Education topped the list of concerns the organization has. Pruitt says he believes a new Saginaw school board and superintendent are on the right track and will do what’s necessary to improve education in Saginaw schools. He mentions improving skilled trades programming for young people as a priority and would like to see outreach and marketing to bring healthcare and skilled trades programs to the Delta College Saginaw Center, slated to open in the fall.
The Saginaw NAACP also advocated on behalf of minority workers during the Delta Saginaw Center’s construction, encouraging contractors to hire them. Pruitt and fellow NAACP member Carl Williams say they often get the response that there simply aren’t enough qualified minority workers in those trades. Pruitt says the NAACP takes some responsibility for it and is working toward encouraging more young people into those fields.
The NAACP is commending efforts to improve the public defense system throughout the state. The Michigan Indigent Defense Commission has introduced new standards among public defenders in the criminal justice system to improve the defense of poor people accused of crimes. The standards took effect this year.
Pruitt says the move is a step in the right direction.
“When you can put more resources to it, you can up the level and the quality of legal services to people who have been charged with crimes, and be adequately and properly represented in court, we know it makes a difference. And we’ve seen what happens when people don’t have proper legal representation.”
According to a 2008 report by the Sixth Amendment Center, Michigan’s public defense system was among the worst in the country.
Overall, Pruitt says, the communities of Saginaw and Saginaw County work well with the organization. The Saginaw NAACP will continue to work with local and state leaders in the coming year on those areas of focus.