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Jamaica NAACP president seeks more members

"My schedule is fairly packed," is how Barnes puts it, in what it could be argued is a vast understatement. "I wouldn't trade it for anything."Barnes, 53, just completed the first year of her two-year term as president of the Jamaica branch. She ascended to the post in January 2005, after the president at the time decided to go back to school. Barnes ran unopposed and took the position, touting her experience as a longtime member of the branch, the former head of fund-raising and a stint as a member of the Executive Committee.Barnes, a longtime resident of St. Albans who helps Meeks' constituents with immigration questions, described her first year in the volunteer position as "very challenging." As president, she is responsible, first and foremost, for the health of the branch. This involves ensuring that the branch's office runs smoothly, working closely with the Executive Committee and coordinating the branch's regular meetings. In addition to these logistics, Barnes said she must simultaneously focus her attention on growing the branch's membership and fund-raising -- two keys to ensuring the branch's long-term viability and relevance. The branch, founded by Frank M. Turner, an associate of civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois, is steeped in history and Barnes said she feels strong, largely self-imposed pressure to continue its work for racial justice."I want to make sure the community is well-served," Barnes said, stressing that, sadly, racial inequality persists in 2006.With Congressional elections set for November, voter registration will be a major focus of the branch this year, according to Barnes. "We have to make sure it's one man, one vote," she said.Barnes said she has no plans to change the way the NAACP does business in 2006. Growing the membership will be a constant focus, Barnes said, and she hopes to enlist more local churches to help with the effort.She also wants to continue working with local elected officials to keep the branch's 500 or so members informed of what's going on in City Hall, Albany and Washington. Bringing politicians to NAACP meetings, she said, also enables the community to inform its elected officials about issues in the community."Its a two-way street," Barnes said.Besides all of that, Barnes said she wants to continue to grow the Jamaica branch's youth chapter -- another key to ensuring the long-term viability of the branch -- and secure funds to help with the archiving of the branch's history. It's an ambitious agenda, but Barnes does not seem overwhelmed. Asked what she likes to do in her free time, Barnes had to think for a minute before offering the stock answers, "reading" and "travel."It's more than likely she won't have any.Reach Reporter Craig Giammona by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 ext. 146.

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