Deborah Dicks Maxwell has been elected president of the North Carolina State Conference of Branches of the NAACP. Maxwell is the first woman elected to the position. Her tenure begins immediately.
The Wilmington resident is president of New Hanover County NAACP and district director of Walter B. White District 16. She has served as branch president and district director for the last 10 and eight years respectively.
“I didn’t run to be the first woman,” Maxwell told Policy Watch on Tuesday. “I ran on my capabilities to strengthen the North Carolina NAACP. There’s always room for improvement.”
Maxwell replaces Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, who was elected to lead the civil rights organization in 2017. She received 54% of the 186 votes cast by state delegates compared to 34% for Spearman. Gemale Black, president of the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP, received 11% of the votes.
Spearman replaced Rev. William Barber after Barber decided not to seek a seventh term as president to focus on his work with Repairers of the Breach, a social justice organization that works to highlight disparities in wages, housing, health care, education.
Maxwell said the state NAACP will focus on voter registration and voter turnout in upcoming elections. The NAACP is a non-partisan organization and does not endorse candidates for political office at any level.
Strengthening the state structure of the NAACP and increasing the number of branches on college and university campuses will also be focus areas under her leadership, Maxwell said.
Maxwell noted that there has been a call for more Student Resources Officers (SROs) due to recent school shootings in New Hanover and Forsyth counties.
“In New Hanover County, they are using the shooting to validate putting more SROs in schools, but we need more school social workers, psychologists and nurses in our schools, especially in these COVID times,” Maxwell said.
The NC NAACP will closely follow the Leandro case, the state landmark school funding case in the weeks ahead, Maxwell said.
“It’s sad that this has gone on for so long,” Maxwell said. “There’s a need to just go ahead [and adequately fund the state’s public schools]. The state has money.”
The Leandro case began more than a quarter-century ago after five rural school districts in low-wealth counties sued the state, arguing they couldn’t raise the tax revenue needed to provide students with a quality education.
In 1997, the state Supreme Court issued a ruling, later reconfirmed in 2004, in which it held that every child has a right to a “sound basic education” that includes competent and well-trained teachers and principals and equitable access to resources.
Superior Court Judge David Lee, the judge overseeing the case, has given the plaintiffs in the case until Nov. 8 to come up with a strategy to move forward if the state doesn’t produce a plan to pay for the $5.2 billion Leandro Comprehensive Remedial Plan. The plan calls for $1.7 billion in new education spending over the next two years.
Maxwell served in the US Army and US Army Reserves, reaching the rank of Sergeant First Class. She participated in Operation Desert Storm.
The retired public health social worker is currently working on vaccine equity with Healthier Together: Health Equity Action Network, a public-private partnership between the NC Department of Health and Human Services and the NC Counts Coalition to increase the number of Black, Indigenous and People of Color receiving COVID-19 vaccines in North Carolina.
In 2020 Maxwell was appointed to the Governor’s Task Force on Racial Equity in Criminal Justice.
Along with Maxwell, two other women were elected to the three highest offices of the North Carolina Conference of the NAACP. Carolyn Q. Coleman, secretary to the NAACP National Board of Directors, from Greensboro, was re-elected as 1st Vice President; Carolyn P. McDougal, immediate past president, Harnett County NAACP was re-elected as 2nd vice president.
Other officers elected Saturday include Keith Rivers, president of the Pasquotank NAACP, who was re-elected 3rd vice president; Courtney Patterson, was re-elected 4th vice president; Sylvia Barnes, president of the Goldsboro-Wayne NAACP, was re-elected secretary; Gerald D. Givens, Jr., president of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP, was elected treasurer and Robert Cunningham was re-elected assistant treasurer.