By Nicole Zamlout and Jane Bowden
Arts & Entertainment Editor and Features Editor
With over 150 clubs and organizations, there are many opportunities for students at the College to become involved on campus and within their community.
The College’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, an organization many do not even know exists, provides a community for many students of color on campus.
The NAACP was nationally founded on Feb. 12, 1909 as a reaction to the Springfield Race Riot of 1908, a two-day attack on the black community of Springfield, Illinois, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
After the riots, a group of white liberals, including Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villard, William English Walling and Henry Moscowitz created the NAACP. Soon after, several African-Americans, such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell, joined the organization.
“Echoing the focus of Du Bois’s Niagara Movement for civil rights, which began in 1905, the NAACP’s aimed to secure for all people the rights guaranteed in the 14th and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution, which promised an end to slavery, the equal protection of the law and universal adult male suffrage, respectively,” according to the NAACP’s official website.
Determined to promote civil rights across the nation, the NAACP founded The Crisis magazine in 1910 to discuss civil rights, as well as share the artwork and writing from people of color like Langston Hughes, a famous African American poet and activist from the mid-1900s.
Since then, chapters of the NAACP have spread throughout the country, and the College is no exception.
Led by an all black female executive board, the College’s NAACP advocates for minorities across campus by hosting black appreciation events and promoting student political engagement on campus. Last semester, members of the organization helped students register to vote for the midterm elections and educated them on their voting rights, such as the right to have a lawyer on standby at an election to prevent voting suppression.
The organization also impacts the Greater Trenton community by providing academic mentorship and celebrating black student excellence through its Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics program, which encourages students in Trenton to explore different academic careers.
However, after last semester’s racial incidents that occurred on campus, the group’s mission has become difficult.
“We were all shocked, appalled and extremely frustrated,” said Mckenna Samson, a sophomore African American studies and English double major and NAACP secretary. “One of our members, one that has been such a major part in the major internal improvements we’ve made this year, was directly affected by the first incident that occurred outside of Wolfe Hall. We wanted to best support him and his fraternity brothers throughout the entire process in any way possible.”
To combat the increase in racial tension, the NAACP worked alongside College President Kathryn Foster in December to include amendments in the College’s student conduct policy that details the consequence for a hate crime.
“The NAACP is a historical civil rights organization, so we had to step up and work alongside those that were racially intimidated,” Samson said. “(We wanted) to let the student body know that we were going to represent the marginalized communities.”
For Black History Month, the College’s NAACP partnered with the Association of Students for Africa for a screening of Ava DuVernay’s 2014 film, “Selma,” a historical drama that follows Martin Luther King, Jr. in his fight for civil rights in the 1960s. The organization also hosted a month-long contest through its Instagram stories that encouraged followers to research lesser-known black activists in history.
On Saturday, Feb. 23, Nia Pierce, a junior music education major and president of the College’s chapter, was honored with an NAACP Image Award by Trenton’s chapter of the organization, an award that is bestowed to people of color in film, television music and literature, according to CNN.
The organization strives to garner rights for those who may feel unsafe, and considering its long and proud history, the NAACP will continue to do so no matter how difficult the circumstance.
The organization hopes to continue to spread more awareness of its existence on campus.
“A lot of times, crisis drives people to want to help but in day-to-day life,” Samson said. “It can be difficult to engage people that otherwise would not have an interest in what we do on campus.”