Information is power
Bishop J. David Stockton III, the Sr. Pastor at the Greater New Hope Church, poses for a photo in the Sanctuary of the church on Emerald Road in Silver Springs Shores, Fla. on Wednesday, August 12, 2020. Stockton is the new president of the NAACP of Marion County. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2020.
New NAACP president embraces entire community
That is the how Bishop J. David Stockton III views his role as the new president of the Marion County Chapter of the NAACP. The senior pastor of the Greater New Hope church in Silver Springs Shores said he believes too many Marion County residents live in an “information vacuum,” and he wants to change that.
“In my tenure, I want people to say they knew what was going on,” he said. “We want to be proactive rather than reactive.”
Among the initiatives Stockton has launched in his short time as president of the local NAACP are weekly live-streaming discussions where he talks about what is going on in the community and the organization, which he sees as one. Moreover, he is a regular attendee of School Board meetings as the school system ramps up to reopen schools.
“I’ve always been a community pastor,” he said. “I believe any ministry is an extension of the community.”
Stockton has been involved in the NAACP everywhere he has lived. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio – yes, he is an avid Ohio State fan – he also has lived in California, West Virginia, South Carolina and now, Florida. And it’s not just a racial organization to him, but something more.
“It’s not an African American thing or a black thing,” he said. “It’s justice for all.”
He said to do fulfill that mission – justice for all – the NAACP has to look at the community as all of Marion County, with its diversity of the forest, Silver Springs, the horse community, the retirement communities and so on.
“One of my main agendas is to make sure our community is identified as the entire county,” he said. “With all that is going on in our county, we have people who are living in poverty, living on the fringes. I want to be sure they are seen.
“I’m trying to be as effective as we can, and to do so we have to include everyone.”
Stockton, a 49-year-old widower and the father of four children, has a three-pronged set of priorities for his term in office.
First, he wants to focus on growing the NAACP’s membership.
“The purpose of the NAACP is to be a net, all-encompassing, all reaching,” he said. “We have a great history and have to build on that.”
Next, the pastor is trying to get people in the community more information. In addition to his online chats, the NAACP has also hosted a candidate forum and is helping coordinate a group of churches that are planning to create “virtual learning camps” to help parents and students who are going to be taking online instruction once schools reopen on Aug. 24.
Finally, Stockton said celebrating the accomplishments of Marion County residents is high on his priority list. He said too many Marion Countians achieve great things but are too often go unrecognized for their success.
“We have some talented people in our community,” he said. “But you don’t hear about people who are from here. We don’t celebrate them.”
When asked what role he believes the Black Lives Matter movement might play in Marion County, Stockton pauses and ponders.
“For me, the Black Lives Matter movement is a national necessity,” he said. “It is something that is, one, overdue. But more importantly, it is something that has to happen to start a conversation … a result of the squeaky wheel not getting oiled.”
He said what non-Black people do not realize is the African American culture, unlike other ethnic groups, does not have its own community.
“In America, every culture gets to have their community – except the Black community,” he said. “I’ve never heard of Little Jamaica or Little Haiti. For the Blacks, our community is known as the hood or the projects. I think the Black Lives Matter movement is us saying, ‘Hey, we have something to offer.’”
But, he warns, extremism is dangerous to sustaining any message.
“The extremism of anything, well, I’m against it.”
For now, though, Stockton is looking to open dialogue with the entire community and try and break down divisions. It’s part of his information initiative.
“We politicize everything from religion to going back to school. Why does everything have to be Republican or Democrat? When did political parties become more important than the public good?”