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HANFORD — NAACP Kings County has made a New Year’s resolution of their own — to be more visible and approachable in 2018.

“This year is about activism,” says chapter president, Dr. Gail Crooms. “We want to get our name out there through events in the community.”

The year’s mission statement, as well as details on upcoming events will be detailed at the annual Martin Luther King Day march and breakfast Monday.

Beginning at the Hanford Civic Auditorium at 8 a.m., the march to honor MLK will proceed on Douty Street before returning to the auditorium for a free pancake breakfast, provided by the Lions Club.

The event, featuring Crooms’ address on the organization’s plans for the year, will last until 11:30.

The MLK memorial event will also feature guest speakers and information booths where members of the community can ask questions and pick the brains of local activists and entrepreneurs.

Crooms said the shift to being more active in the community came after she met a man who told her he didn’t know that The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which is dedicated to recognizing civil rights for all, regardless of race, had offices in Kern County.

“I gave him my card and invited him to my office anytime to speak about whatever was on his mind,” Crooms said. “I just want people to know we’re available.”

One of the projects Crooms is excited about for the upcoming year is the “Bridging the Gap” project, the goal of which is to increase communication between local law enforcement and members of the community, as well as seeking alternate means of dealing with crimes that be committed by mentally unhealthy individuals.

“Youths committing crimes may benefit more from mental health services rather than incarceration. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is rampant,” she says. “We’re working with police to come up with a resolution and they’ve been very helpful.”

The year will also see events like fish fries, scholarship dinners and autism-awareness advocacy.

Though some of the events will be new, the message has remained the same: fairness.

“We are about fairness in the community. We want our children to be treated equally.  We’re not here to get anyone out of trouble, or to fight with anyone. We just want to make sure everyone is treated fairly,” Crooms says. “We’re advocating for our children to have a voice without fear of retaliation.”

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