Ongoing Hope and Vision
“You are civil rights activists,” boomed Youth and College Director Brandon Neal to his attentive teenage audience. “You are the young people that will take in this information that is being given to you now, take it back with you to your respective communities, and [apply it]. That is your job!”
As the energetic crowd swelled with an explosion of appreciative applause, Neal paused, flashed a charming grin, and returned to his seat. And so commenced the Youth and College Division of the 2005 NAACP convention.
Created in 1936, the Youth and College Division, is composed of over 400 Youth Councils and College Chapters nationwide. Today it continues to serve as an organization devoted to the development of an informed, empowered new generation of black civil rights leaders and activists. Composed of some 67,000 young people, the group is involved with various activities, including fund-raisers, black history essay contests, and voter registration drives. At this year’s NAACP convention, the Youth and College Division hosted a general orientation for its members as well as a larger meeting to approach and address issues currently affecting the black community.
The July 10 orientation was focused on settling into the convention, with activities like learning a NAACP cheer and advertising NAACP paraphernalia. However, the July 12 meeting offered impressive insight on more significant issues.
Oppressed by Materialism
In particular, Sam Houston NAACP President Calvin Davis made several interesting points throughout the meeting, mainly in reference to the materialistic standpoint of today’s hip-hop culture.
He explained, “We have been oppressed for so long that we feel that we have to prove ourselves. This is why you’ll see people who can barely afford to eat driving around these big, fancy cars.”
Eighteen-year-old NAACP National Board of Directors member Mondaire Jones later embellished, “Make sure you take care of the necessities of life before luxury.”
“You Are All My Children”
Clara Luper, civil rights leader and advisor of the Oklahoma City NAACP Youth Council, also greatly impacted the young audience by speaking emotionally about her 1958 experiences with segregation “In order to understand segregation, you must understand its history,” she stressed.
Emotion overcame her as she surveyed the audience. “[I] wanted to have a better world for our children and our children’s children,” she exclaimed. “And as I look at you all, you are all my children. You are beautiful.”
The audience, composed mostly of well-informed, ambitious young people, seemed to appreciate the heartfelt comment of all the speakers.
Director Brandon Neal proclaimed, “You aren’t here just for fun...you are here to do something. Today’s youth needs to raise the bar and start protesting more, having more boycotts, more marches.”
Trevor, 17, a Milwaukee native, responded, “Now that I’ve come to this meeting, I feel even more inspired to really get out there, to be radical and stand up for what I believe in. It’s important not to worry about riling people up.”
Added 16-year-old Kiara, treasurer of the Atlantic City, NJ chapter, “We need to let people be aware! I want to make a difference in my community, and really help the NAACP gain more recognition.”
While the Youth and College Division has attracted activists from a wide array of cities and financial backgrounds, it unites them in one front.
“We are all young people, trying to make a difference in this world,” stated St. Louis, MS native Chelsea, 14. “Being a member of the Youth Division is just my first step towards making this world a little better, and hopefully helping a lot of people on the way.”
If you would like to become involved in the Youth and College Division of the NAACP, contact Ernest Coverson at http://www.naacp.org/departments/yc/yc_index.html. 313-869-2289
Riverwest Currents online edition - July, 2005