The NAACP and The New Black Student Movement (NBSM) – GDN Exclusiveby Afi G. Osakwe, Contributing Writer May 7, 2021
Is a new black student movement needed? At a recent Zoom meeting, Fayetteville State University (FSU) students answered in the affirmative and gave examples of their civic engagement activities within their National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) student chapter.
Recent data indicates that current student activism trends across the country developed to address voter suppression legislation, rampant and significant unjustifiable law enforcement killing of Blacks, and anti-protest legislation that hearken the days of the Black Codes and Convict Leasing penalties.
Today’s youth have embraced these challenges, again, by creating and joining many organizations, such as Black Lives Matter, and fashioning approaches that utilize communications technologies, social media, and on-the-ground protests to more effectively and efficiently reach goals and objectives that previous generations were unable to solve. This inability to solve is no fault of students alone. Again, it simply means that the issues have existed throughout the Black Experience of civil rights struggles. There is the conundrum of efficiency and effectiveness not being able to be formed as a “tip of the spear” approach…until now. This new movement is a mass student movement with overarching strategic planning to quickly implement strategies of opposition to undemocratic statutes and acts of injustice practically in real time. The NBSM is designed for maximum strategic rapid response.
Why now? The need, according to FSU students and North Carolina Central University (NCCU) strategists, students at other institutions, and community youth for joining the NBSM, is the timing of proliferation of current issues and expertise required for strengthening systematic student activism throughout the United States to address them. The expertise required and its institutionalization that FSU students endorse is entrenching NAACP on every pertinent campus in the United States, beginning in North Carolina and elsewhere it is embraced.
FSU sophomore William Evans, computer science major and ascending president of the NAACP FSU student chapter observed in an interview for this article, “The NAACP was founded to establish justice within the Black Community, first, and the NBSM is perfectly matched with it to establish strategic, sustainable, committed, and motivated achievement.”
Evans, a Fayetteville native, spoke of his personal civic engagement responsibility being instilled through his parents and grandmother as, “They just kind of knew it; and I feel as though many youths of today, don’t. My family instilled that in me and my choice to come to an HBCU, FSU, was heavily influenced by that sense of community and responsibility that exists here. As the national organization that has been in existence since 1909, it has been most recognizable for defending justice for more than a century.”
For instance, students at HBCUs, Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) and their Black Student Unions and Forums, and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) may have civic engagement programs that are ready to strategically navigate the short window of opportunity before the 2022 midterms and other conditions and needs that exist. Some may not. Even so, the vacuum created by the lack of a mass system of student activism is stark.
Speaking of FSU students having unique challenges vis-a-vis being part of the University of North Carolina System, William says there are considerations that students must navigate in order to have more leverage actualizing their adult matriculation. “FSU is in a unique and challenging position of having UNC system obligations having to be met. Yet, there’s more that can be done by FSU administration regarding funding and how things are done on this campus via decision making. I’m not saying that they are not trying to give students a taste of adulthood in being their own people, but we’re under the UNC system and that presents a very challenging position for the university to listen to students and speak on their behalf of what students want to see.”
The NBSM focuses on the establishment of NAACP student chapters at each of the institutions, with administrative oversight and community chapters’ involvement. That requires student volunteerism, at this stage, with a focused eye toward work study compensation as soon as possible and a requirement that there be twenty-five active student members to establish a chapter on each campus. The immediate major focus of these chapters are voter registration, education, and mobilization and get-out-the vote (VREM/GOTV).
“I just love the more seasoned and more experienced alumni here. It just goes to show that it pushes the narrative forward of what it means and the significance of a HBCU. The fact that alumni continue to try and help out even after they are long gone is one of the powerful things about an HBCU; and one of the reasons why we as a people should want to go to an HBCU.”
FSU’s NAACP chapter has several members, both active and inactive. The focus, established by the outgoing president, is to get inactive members to become active members. Evans says there are many reasons for inactivity, of which many are life-challenging obligations. So, the mandate is for FSU NAACP chapter to be recognized as legitimate according to the National NAACP.
The national requirement for establishing campus chapters will be one that each HBCU will have to attain and is a process for established chapters and those who will be establishing chapters. It’s part of the process of moving forward. It is not viewed as a daunting process and even more reason for generating membership support from different entities.
The Fayetteville NAACP chapter is nationally recognized. Even more reason for campus chapters, and aspiring chapters, to work very closely with local chapters to establish national recognition. Evans says, “This is something that I’m really trying to work toward as I enter my presidency, establishing the FSU chapter as a nationally recognized one.”
“I really appreciate the opportunity for us to coexist together. From my perspective, this is not taken lightly. You all are doing a great deed, not only for Fayetteville State but for African Americans across North Carolina and even the world. I think you should really continue. It’s very powerful. We endeavor to get back out into the community to reclaim the original and continuing efforts for which the NAACP was created…not only as an organization, but as a people.”
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