Despite the suspension of the NAACP Madison chapter for unknown reasons, community members are gathering to push for the creation of a Dane County chapter.

Gwen Jones, interim chair for the Dane County chapter of the NAACP, said the idea began when a group of community members were discussing the Race to Equity report. She said they were surprised that a county that has a reputation for being progressive would be so behind in so many indicators of racial equity.

Jones said they realized that various organizations work on different facets of the problem, but no large overarching group works on the issue as a whole.

The group contacted the NAACP, and Jones said they were enthusiastic about the idea because it would expand the jurisdiction of the branch.

To establish a branch, they needed to collect 100 names, Jones said, and, as of now, have collected 184 names.

Plans for the Dane County chapter are still in the early stages, and Jones said once the names are sent in and they receive a letter of acknowledgment, the county chapter can begin as an official branch. Upon receiving the charter they will hold elections in May, she said.

“The more people you have that are actively involved, that’s what will make it a success,” Jones said. “The community is ready.”

The Dane County chapter of the NAACP would focus on the same things the organization focuses on nationally such as social justice, economic development and education, Jones said.

Jones said the NAACP would plan on collaborating with other organizations in the area to work on the issues. Many community members who have committed themselves to being involved with the NAACP are already involved in other organizations who also seek to solve racial disparities, she said.

“When you see that you have the opportunity to build a synergy across organizations, that’s just the right thing to do,” Jones said.

The NAACP would also have a strong youth leadership program for high school and undergraduate college-aged community members, Jones said. They have plans to reach out to University of Wisconsin and Madison Area Technical College students as well as other youth in the community, she said.

Jones said the NAACP has always been a multi-ethic organization and the Dane County chapter will be set up in the same way.

“It is not just a black issue,” Jones said. “The needs of people cuts across colored lines.”

Erica Nelson, project director of the Race to Equity report, said the Madison community has kept a momentum going to solve the inequity issues since the release of the report late last year.

Nelson said the bigger picture was that conversations about racial disparities in the county were continuing to take place.

“Every week, every day among people who are running organizations, people who are running city and county government, people who are running human services, nonprofits, professors at the university,” Nelson said. “I think what I’m happiest about is that people are still talking about it and beginning to really think about solutions and actions.”