By SIERRA HORTON
Students have started a new campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) at UMW. The club is still in the chartering stage with the national branch but plans to become official after the national branch’s meeting in March. Club goals include getting involved in the community and ultimately helping to encourage a culture of equality at UMW.
“The mission of the NAACP is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race based discrimination and our club mission aligns exactly,” says the club’s president, junior geography major Kelsey Chavers. “The purpose of our organization is to get involved in the community, educate individuals, and host events that align with our mission.”
The process to start the club began in the fall of this year, and according to Chavers, “The local Fredericksburg chapter has wanted Mary Washington to form a college chapter for a number of years now.”
“I have been a member of the NAACP branch in Charlottesville for years so, to me, it felt like the next step in my personal civil rights journey,” says Chavers.
The members of the NAACP at UMW are looking forward to becoming an official group and hosting events in order to achieve their goals. The group plans to host events on campus and throughout Fredericksburg and volunteer with local organizations.
“I hope to see the UMW Chapter of the NAACP uphold the mission statement to the highest standard by connecting and getting involved with the community of Fredericksburg and educating the campus community of UMW in any way possible,” said freshman sociology major, and vice president Brianna Reaves. “While I ponder about the many events that the chapter can host, I know that with strong members, the accomplishments are limitless and beyond my wildest expectations.”
“I feel that our goals can be achieved by, first, taking a small step of learning about the history of each others backgrounds,” said freshman and biology major, Amber Brown. “I would also love to see this chapter prosper throughout the next three years that I am here, and even more after that. And, on the fun side of things, I would also love for our members to go on field trips like meeting other chapter members at other universities.”
Current club members say they are proud to be a part of the organization and hope other students will get involved. They believe their role is essential for the betterment of both UMW and the broader Fredericksburg community.
“When getting involved in the nation’s leading civil rights organization you have the chance to become an activist, become informed about our community, develop networking skills through campus and local events, build your resume and enhance leadership skills,” said Chavers. “It’s an opportunity to be on a committee of a national organization. You can give back to your community.”
“Now that there’s a NAACP college chapter being established, UMW students now have the opportunity to become an activist, learn about current events, and voice their ideas for the chapter in a safe space,” said Brown. “I will admit that I am not a ‘history guru,’ but I do have an open mind and encourage others to have the same when joining this organization, because the willingness to learn is always the first step.”
The current members look forward to other students on campus joining alongside them in this journey of justice and equality. They are waiting to make specific decisions on future community involvement and events until they are able to gather input and shared ideas from these new members. This way, each member’s voice is heard and, collectively, they can make a difference.
“In a country that is swarmed with hate, misunderstanding, and a vicious lack of empathy, it takes people as committed as the other members and I, along with the rest of the students and faculty at Mary Washington, to defeat and overcome it,” says Reaves. “The NAACP calls all people everywhere to join in the fight to protect all people in every form.”