The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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October 15, 2013

Heed the call to strengthen community | NAACP speaker pushes grass-roots approach

JOHNSTOWN — It’s one thing to have a dream; it’s another to do something about it.

That’s what the Johnstown branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is trying to accomplish with its “Advancing the Dream” theme.

The 97-year-old local branch of the NAACP held its Freedom Fund Banquet Saturday evening. Part of the mission was to celebrate what the organization has done in the past year. And part of it was to look at what more the group and its members can accomplish.

Charvonne Holliday, the banquet’s keynote speaker, called on the NAACP and its members to focus on what they personally can do.

“The easy way out is for us to take the top-down approach, blaming occurrences at the policy levels for matters we have some control over,” said Holliday, a Greater Johnstown High School graduate and coordinator of international projects at Windber Research Institute, Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. “This evening I propose a bottom-up approach: Examining ourselves first and our impact on the lives of those around us.”

What a wonderful approach to community issues. Rather than simply calling for politicians to get involved, Holliday urged a grass-roots effort.

As reported by our Randy Griffith, Holliday encouraged successful community members to mentor young people, noting that such efforts can reduce drug and alcohol abuse and improve academic performance.

Holliday certainly practices what she preaches. Earlier in the week, she took part in the second annual Tribune-Democrat Youth Leadership Seminar. In it, she spoke with young people about Johnstown and the surrounding areas and about what they can do to improve our region. A doctoral candidate at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, Holliday talked about her career and answered questions about the medical field. She even took the time to locate a student who she was not scheduled to speak with when she discovered that he was hoping to attend the same university that she did.

“Instead of waiting on the slow-moving, top-down change, let’s refine the expectations that we set for our community, irrespective of what others may set for us,” Holliday told the NAACP. “Together let us raise the bar.”

Inspirational words from someone who can serve as a role model for so many. We hope that many heed Holliday’s call and come together to strengthen our community, no matter the skin color.

If that happens, we’ll be so much closer to the Rev. Martin Luther King’s dream. And, as Alan Cashaw, local NAACP branch president said, we’ll all be fighting for that dream.

“If one person’s civil rights are trampled upon, all our civil rights are trampled upon,” Cashaw said.

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