The Ardmore Chamber of Commerce is the recipient of the Ardmore NAACP Branch Partner of the Year award. Chamber Senior Vice President Mita Bates accepted the award during the organization’s Martin L. King banquet Jan. 26 at the Colvert Ministry Center.

The banquet theme was “Diversity and its Discontents: The End of Affirmative Action”.

Anthony Douglas, Oklahoma State NAACP Conference President, said the presentation was the result of a, “chance meeting between two organizations represented by two people (Elizabeth Williams, NAACP Ardmore Branch President, and Bates), of diverse backgrounds, both with a shared a vision,” adding, “The award commemorates the partnership
between the two, that resulted from their vision and the good that came out of it.”

A retired army veteran, Williams, who accepted the leadership position of the local organization in September, said her job has been challenging because she had to rebuild the NAACP Ardmore Branch after it had been dormant for several years.

“I wanted to make a difference, but first I had to find members and new officers to take key positions,” Williams said. “So I knocked on doors to let people know that Ardmore NAACP had re-opened.”

However, Douglas said Williams faced a challenge a few months later when, “doors were shut in her face, not because of her race ... or that she was a civil rights leader ...because of her gender.” Historically, presidents of local NAACP branches have been men.

“Some men do not respect any woman’s authority to lead what has been traditionally charged to men,” Williams said. Frustrated she went to the chamber of commerce where she met Bates.

“I was unfamiliar with Ardmore and new at being president to an NAACP branch that had just been re-activated. Doors shut in my face, I felt like I was stumbling and hitting a brick wall.” Williams said. “Ardmore NAACP had to be re-introduced but I didn’t know what else to do or where else to go. So I went to the chamber of commerce and reached out to Mita Bates for help, and she did help me. It was Mita’s idea to bring back the MLK banquets in an effort to encourage diversity, and I agreed”, said Williams.

After the award presentation, Bates delivered an address stating the chamber’s mission and with a personal invitation to begin a dialog to embrace and celebrate our diversity and to let us build on the strength of this diversity and its influence, and to let us work together for the betterment of all Southern Oklahoma.