Where We Live: Sharon Gary-Smith takes over NAACP

Oregon

Sharon Gary-Smith is 3rd president in 4 years

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — On Saturday, the Portland NAACP elected their third president in 4 years, a lifelong civil and human rights advocate who stepped out of retirements and back into the spotlight.

Sharon Gary-Smith replaces E.D. Mondainé, who resigned after allegations first published in the Portland Mercury that he sexually abused young boys and emotionally abused other NAACP members. Mondainé has denied all the allegations.

But several sources told KOIN 6 News there was a rift within the organization.

Sharon Gary-Smith, the new president of the Portland NAACP, in an undated courtesy photo provided November 2020.

“The powerful investigative report, we had no idea the specifics or how serious it could be,” Gary-Smith said. “We were about making the changes we all believed we deserved around accountability, around integrity and around transparency about how our organization, our branch was run.”

After George Floyd’s death, Portland NAACP membership soared to more than 1000 and gained renewed financial support. They led marches and rallies and became a voice for equality.

Now, the oldest NAACP chapter west of the Mississippi River — founded in 1914 — is trying to get back to its roots and mission.

“We owe the community. We’re responsible to the community to deliver to them an organization that is for the advancement of colored people, and all who are dispossessed, marginalized,” she said.

Gary-Smith, who was born and raised in Portland, knows it won’t be easy. But she said her backgound — including leading the philanthropic Mackenzie River Gathering, her work with the Urban League, the NAACP, Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare and numerous boards has her prepared.

It’s another chapter for the Portland NAACP.

“We want people to watch us, we want people to check us, we want people to be engaged,” she said.

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