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The St. Louis County NAACP announced Friday that John Bowman Sr. is its newest president.

Bowman has served as interim president since April, following the suspension of former president John Gaskin III. He came under fire for supporting a bill to change Title IX law and his paid consulting work for Better Together. 

During a press conference at the Cheshire near Clayton, Bowman acknowledged the past few months have been difficult for the county chapter. But he said this marks a transition period for the organization to rediscover its roots.

“I’m going to go back to using the original model and the mission of the NAACP,” he said. “It’s very simple; it’s not reinventing the wheel — it’s addressing discrimination, creating equitable opportunities for all people.”

Bowman says his biggest priorities are ensuring an accurate count in the 2020 census and criminal justice reform. 

“There is a desperate need for us to come to a better place in how our communities are policed. There seems to be a very tense line between the way our communities are policed and other communities,” he said. “We need to be a part of that dialogue, and we need to have people who reflect our interest.”

Bowman also announced he’s bringing an NAACP program to the local chapter to promote academic achievement and STEM programs in underserved schools. It’s called the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics.

“We know the root of many of our problems our community faces today is a divide in educational outcomes for our children in the region,” he said.

Bowman said his biggest challenge will be to recruit the next generation to join the chapter, which is why he’s planning an “aggressive recruitment drive.” He added that he has a partner willing to pay for the first year of membership of any person between the ages of 18 and 30.

This article was republished, with permission, from St. Louis Public Radio.

This article originally ran on stlamerican.com.

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