Orange, CA — To tap America’s youthful energy, the NAACP might hire an administrator for programs on college campuses nationwide, said the chairperson of the organization’s board of directors.
NAACP directors are “beginning to look more positively at embracing new blood.” chairperson Myrlie Evers-Williams said while speaking at Chapman University in Orange, 25 miles south of Los Angeles.
“We cannot continue to operate in a vacuum without input from young people,” she said. “We have to train them to become leaders and spokesman.”
She cautioned that as students become active they should not be too hasty to “kick the old out of the way. Learn from where we’ve been, gain strength and wisdom from what we’ve been through.”
Evers-Williams came to Chapman, a predominantly white university in southern California’s affluent Orange County, at the invitation of junior Kathleen Collins. Collins, a peace studies major, said, “The idea of bringing Myrlie Evers-Williams to campus tied into the things I believe are right and the issues facing the Orange County chapter of the NAACP.”
Evers-Williams’ visit in March was the first in a reactivated lecture series which has featured Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Eleanor Roosevelt. The 135-year-old university is supported by the Christian Church (Disciple of Christ).
Membership in the Orange County NAACP has ballooned from 53 to 400 since December 1995, and it recently created a youth and college chapter, said branch president James Tippins.
Around the country, the NAACP is experiencing an increase in young members, and the trend will surely accelerate with Kweisi Mfume as the NAACP’s president and CEO, Evers-Williams said.
“He’s young, dynamic,” she said of Mfume, a former Maryland congressman. “He has a varied background. His life speaks to almost anyone. I couldn’t think of a better role model. Here is someone who’s dropped out of school and was on the streets and he turned his life around.”
Evers-Williams said she will meet with Mfume to discuss an initiative aimed at youth and college students. During her 45-minute speech before several hundred in Chapman’s Memorial Hall, Evers-Williams said she is concerned about California’s efforts to dismantle affirmative action The University of California Board of Regents has voted to abolish race as a factor in student admissions.
Evers-Williams said a climate of hate seems to permeate many college campuses. “We’ve reached the point where we have stopped talking to each other.
“You go on college campuses around this country, and those things we fought for — that we thought we’d never have to fight for again — we’re seeing students, one group pitted against another. Signs are painted on doors. nasty notes are slipped under doors and college newspapers have articles and letters to the editor that are there to conquer and divide.”
Evers-Williams is the widow of slain civil rights pioneer Medgar Evers. She said Evers often told her African Americans will gain the rights they deserve. “But he said the most difficult problem will be holding onto those gains once we have achieved them.”
Many young people, she said, have questioned the NAACP’s relevancy. “Someone said, when we were going through our most difficult time, the NAACP saw its best days. But all you have to do is look around you and see how much we’re needed.”
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