Manatee Branch

Bradenton native Rodney Jones has been named the new president of the Manatee County NAACP
following the resignation of Susie Copeland, who served as leader of the organization for five years.

”I’m very excited,” the 49-year-old Jones said Monday. “With race and discrimination appearing to be on the increase in the country, I think it’s a great opportunity to be in a civil rights organization. … I think there’s a lot of work to be done.”

According to a release issued Sunday by the Manatee County NAACP, the organization installed Jones at their May meeting. Tarnisha Cliatt will serve as vice president and the remaining officers — secretary Rita B. Smith and treasurer Cornelle J. Maxfield — will continue in their current roles.

“We’d like to build our membership,” Jones said when asked about his plans. “We’re starting to get quite a few complaints and we want to build our capacity and investigate those complaints and, where there appears to be a violation, provide some type of remedy and then to aggressively meet the mission of the NAACP, which is to do our best to rid our society of discrimination, both race-based and discrimination in general.”

Jones has been involved with Manatee NAACP for about a decade. According to the organization, Jones has an extensive history of service in Manatee County and currently serves as community coordinator for Bradenton Village’s resident services. He also currently serves on the Manatee County School District’s Cultural Competence Committee and was also a 2014 candidate for the Manatee County School Board.

“I’m really glad to see that this new organization is cohesive, organized, and positioned to move forward seamlessly,” said area director and Sarasota Chapter President Trevor Harvey, who attended the meeting and expressed his support of Jones’ appointment.

Jones said that once the community sees Manatee NAACP aggressively addressing issues, he thinks membership will grow.

“I think there are a lot of people who share the same passion for equality and justice,” he added. “We’re gearing up for a membership drive now.”

Copeland, who plans on traveling with her husband now that she’s no longer president, said she felt fine about Jones’ appointment.

“If I wasn’t happy, I would not have retired at the time that I did,” the 67-year-old Bradenton resident said. “Rodney’s in a good position to lead the organization. There’s still a great need for the NAACP and Rodney is a young, bright and intelligent man. He’s got the energy, the stamina to do what needs to be done — to continue the branch and keep building.”

The increase in civil rights activism during the 1960’s took place throughout the South. In Florida, sit-ins, protest marches and other non-violent actions took place throughout the state. The NAACP represented many of the protesters in court as cases stemming from protests, desegregation and voting rights made their way through the courts. The first Freedom Fund Banquet was held in Florida in 1975, and the first time Florida hosted the NAACP National Convention was the 71st Annual Convention in 1980 on Miami Beach.
The continued work of the NAACP throughout the State of Florida has fostered equal and fair treatment for citizens through the tireless work of its Branches and growing membership. Working to combat the forces that continue to deny voting rights, fair employment opportunities, desegregation efforts and basic civil rights to all citizens, by political and legal means has continued since the creation of those earlier branches and continues today in Florida.

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