To those who view the NAACP as an organization just for an older generation of civil rights activists, meet the new generation at SUNY Buffalo State.
Students recently started a youth chapter on the college campus, gaining its charter May 5.
“We are the organization that will bridge the community and the college,” said Jessica Micha, a Buffalo State senior and the chapter’s president.
The new chapter was formed as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People launched a nationwide initiative to involve more youth councils and college chapters.
The young members begin their work as the Buffalo branch of the NAACP prepares for its 47th annual Medgar Evers Awards Dinner. The event, which recognizes the efforts of many in the community, will be held at 6 p.m. June 9 in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. The guest speaker will be Mark Gaston Pearce, a Buffalo lawyer who is chairman of the National Labor Relations Board.
“We stand ready to work with them,” Frank B. Mesiah, president of the Buffalo branch of the NAACP, said of the new chapter’s members. “We don’t go in and tell them what to do. But whenever they need assistance, we try to help them.”
After all, the younger members will be the ones eventually taking the reins from the current leaders, Mesiah said.
Mesiah and other leaders worked with students to help start the fledgling college chapter.
Mesiah attended an educational program held by the on-campus affiliate in February in honor of the 104th anniversary of the NAACP. Mesiah and a representative from the New York City office also attended the group’s elections held to create a board.
“I want this organization to teach. It’s about knowing our history,” said co-founder Margot Harris. “We need to know it.”
To start the campus chapter, Micha and Harris had to recruit at least 25 members, with each member paying $15 in annual dues for a required minimum total of $375.
It took about a year to start the new chapter.
At the first informational meeting, about 40 students attended. Two weeks later, Micha and Harris had registered enough members and collected enough money.
That proved to be the easy challenge.
The not-so-easy challenge turned out to be securing an adviser. “That was the hardest part. I thought the issue would be getting money, but it wasn’t,” Harris said.
The group considered about a half-dozen people, including professors, before signing up Tamara L. McMillan, the college’s associate director for the Student Life for Leadership program. “I think she had faith in the idea, and I think that’s why she helped us out,” said Harris, a 2013 journalism graduate.
The branch received its charter weeks before Harris graduated and returned to her Brooklyn home earlier this month.
Her main objective had always been to help start a college chapter, even if she would not be around campus to develop it. But don’t count her out, she said.
“This is something I’m very, very passionate about. I’m not worried about having a title,” she said. “I’ll be coming back to attend some of the events.”
The events include fundraisers this summer, a Mary Talbert Scholarship banquet in the fall, a forum called Conference for Success for high school students, and a charity fashion show in the spring called Survival of the Fittest.
Now that the chapter has started, the group is ready to ask the community for help.
“We don’t have a budget. We could use money donations,” Micha said. “All we’re here for is to help better the community.”
At the Medgar Evers Awards Dinner, which will be emceed by WIVB-TV reporter Brittni Smallwood, the NAACP’s Buffalo branch will present these honors:
• Youth Award – Camille Aleah Green, a junior honor roll student at Williamsville South High School, and Kristy Tyson, a graduate of State University at Canton and a longtime youth mentor and tutor.
• Rufus Frazier Human Relations Award – The Rev. Mark E. Blue of Second Baptist Church of Lackawanna, the first African-American to be appointed board president of the Lackawanna Chamber of Commerce, and Adia C. Jordan, a volunteer assistant director of the Omega Mentoring Program and head of communications for Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Strokes.
• Daniel R. Acker Community Service Award – Marilyn Gibson, a decorated Persian Gulf War veteran who works with “Girls 2 Women Mentoring” at Elim Christian Fellowship, and the Lighthouse Free Medical Clinic on Buffalo’s East Side, which provides non-emergency care, vaccinations, physicals, health screenings, counseling and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
• Medgar Evers Jr. Civil Rights Award – The Rev. Eric Johns of the Buffalo Dream Center, which offers children’s outreach programs, a mobile food pantry and the annual Boxes of Love Christmas outreach that provides food and toys to families.
Tickets to the awards dinner cost $50 in advance; tickets will not be sold at the door. For information, call 884-7242.
Information on SUNY Buffalo State’s NAACP chapter is available by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at “Buffalo State College NAACP.”