The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is being revitalized at Saint Louis University. On Monday, the Atlas Week event entitled “SLU NAACP: Resurrection, Revitalization and Recruitment” spoke about the SLU chapter of the organization and how it will return to a more active role on campus. The event consisted of a panel discussion of the history, importance and work of the NAACP and a question and answer session about some of the social and racial concerns that face the city of St. Louis.
According to Jonathan Pulphus, the tentative president of SLU NAACPas they wait to obtain probationary status, having a fully chartered chapter at SLU would challenge students to become “scholar-activists” through education and advocacy. It would further encourage students “to face overt, subtle, and institutional -isms–racism in particular.” Pulphus said these goals would be accomplished through careful research, community outreach and mobilization efforts.
“We are trying to raise awareness about the organization,” said Isaac Singleton, SLU NAACP’s expected VP of External Affairs. “We started off with four board members and we are trying to get this [organization] out on campus to explain that this isn’t a perfect world. We are trying to raise awareness of social justice issues in the community.”
The panel discussion consisted of Stefan Bradley, Director of African American Studies at SLU, Etefia Umana, Director of Guidance at Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School and Romona Taylor Williams, Executive Director of Metro St. Louis for Inclusion and Equity. The panel discussed different elements of NAACP including its historical impact and what the organization is doing in the 21st century.
Bradley spoke about the history of the organization. He focused his discussion on the founders, which included women. According to Bradley this was very radical for the time because women did not have the opportunity to hold leadership positions prior to the NAACP and it was during a time where women did not have the right to vote. He also spoke about the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, which worked to ensure the constitutional rights of African American students in the 1940s through the 1960s. The Legal Defense Fund was mostly famously involved with the landmark United States Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, which resulted in a decision that declared segregation of public schools unconstitutional.
After the panel discussion there was a question and answer session. Questions were asked about the “Delmar Divide,” a socioeconomic divide in the St. Louis along Delmar Blvd. According to the BBC, in the city South of Delmar, the median home value is $262,000 more; the median income is $32,000 more; and the number of people with bachelor’s degrees is 60 percent higher. North of Delmar the population is 98 percent black; to the south it’s 74 percent white.
At the end of the question and answer session, Williams challenged those in attendance to start a voter registration as one of their first major initiatives for SLU NAACP.
“We can see what is taking place in the country right now that the last 50 years and in the case of the NAACP the last 105 years, a lot of the work and the protections that have been put in place for people of color are being eroded and are under attack now,” said Williams. “It is so important for young people to understand that the civil rights movement did not end 50 years ago and that it is even more relevant and even more important that they are aware of civil rights issues because they are being weakened now more than ever.”
The group is already looking to extend its reach off-campus.
“In the future, we are hoping to work on voter registration,” said Joseph Emanuel, who aims to become the group’s Treasurer. “We want to have a voice outside of campus by working in North St. Louis and fulfill the NAACP’s role inside and outside of campus.”
Additional reporting performed by Wolf Howard.