By Laura Crowley
Arts & Life Editor
A chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was established at the University last summer. Four seniors, Taneea Byrd, Nakea Tyson, Bryan Coleman and Kerry He brought the group to campus in an effort to promote “mutual understanding between different racial, ethnic and socio-economic groups,” member Lauren Stocks-Smith ’13 said.
Founded in 1909, the NAACP seeks to “ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination,” according to its online mission statement. As the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, the NAACP played a critical role during the civil rights movement by promoting racial desegregation. The organization has only gained momentum as it has opened thousands of local chapters nationwide, such as that at the University.
The NAACP “designates 5 five key initiatives … health, education, economic development, civic engagement and juvenile justice,” Stocks-Smith said.
While she cites these initiatives as a useful framework, Stocks-Smith believes that the NAACP’s presence on campus is “not geared solely toward pushing a national agenda.” Rather, the University’s NAACP aims to “bring ideals of social justice to this campus by illuminating the issues, facilitating discussion and encouraging interaction between Bucknellians from all backgrounds,” she said.
The chapter on campus is “dedicated to developing leadership and professional skills while engaging critical issues surrounding the civil rights movement for all disenfranchised groups, not just minorities,” Tyson said.
Relations between people from diverse groups, Stocks-Smith believes, will help close divides common in our society.
While the University’s NAACP chapter has only existed for a little over a semester, the organization has made its presence visible. Last semester, the organization hosted its first annual block party, the Stop the Hate Rally. It also hosted a panel of University faculty called “New Orleans: Five Years Later,” which was cosponsored by The Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender.
This semester, the group plans to sponsor and participate in the Walk for Wellness to address the well-being of the local community. On March 4, it also plans to host a showing of the 42nd NAACP Image Awards, which recognize the accomplishments of African Americans in literature, film, television and other media. For NAACP Week, which runs from April 3-8, the group has plans to bring a speaker to campus. Stocks-Smith says that while other specific events during the week are tentative, “we will devote the entire week to educating the student body on issues facing minorities, whether on a national scale or on our very own campus.”
While the NAACP is now an accredited part of the University, its survival rests upon future members. With four of the group’s eight members graduating this spring, Stocks-Smith says the group is actively seeking “members of the Bucknell community who value diverse perspectives and are inspired by human rights issues.” Membership in the University’s NAACP is unique, Stocks-Smith notes, in that its members are also part of a nationally acclaimed organization with leadership opportunities that extend beyond campus.
The University’s NAACP prides itself on “accepting people of all races, nationalities and religions as members,” Tyson said.
“We not only promote multiculturalism, but more importantly, we facilitate our campus’s move toward a more accepting place for everyone,” Tyson said.
“The more diverse our college experiences,” Stocks-Smith said, “the closer we are to transgressing the racial divide that exists in today’s society.”