by Chelsea Cabral, Staff Writer
On Thursday October 27, UMass Dartmouth’s NAACP College Chapter held its first official meeting in the Liberal Arts building, engaging its members in an open dialogue surrounding topics such as social justice, equal opportunity and voter mobilization.
The chapter, which is newly formed on the UMass Dartmouth campus, is helping bring the vision of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) to college youth, educating its members on social justice activism, equality, and issues at the local, state and national level—with a primary focus on education, economic development, health, juvenile justice and voter empowerment.
The chapter is being led by its four officers, Chapter President Melany Morales, Vice President Ayden Holliday, Treasurer Tina Daley and Secretary Darlande Joseney.
The NAACP was founded in 1909 in a direct response to the lynchings and race riots in Springfield, Illinois. Its major impacts include Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the outlawing of stop and frisk.
It’s the nation’s oldest, largest, and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization with more than half a million members and supporters. The NAACP Youth and College Division has helped inform youth of the problems facing African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities and helped develop intelligent and effective youth leadership.
“Everyone is welcome,” says sophomore arts & sciences major Melany Morales, the Chapter President. “This isn’t a place for just colored people but people of all races and backgrounds…The goal is to get the student body involved politically and socially.”
With civic engagement being a core principle of the NAACP, the first official general body meeting used much of its time to meticulously go over each of the 2016 ballot questions with its members, creating an open-floor style forum where members could ask questions, voice concerns over ballot questions or even debate on them.
“Voting is definitely on the NAACP’s agenda,” said Deputy Director and Senior Investigator of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, David Gomes who is the Chapter’s co-advisor. “We have to read [these questions] with a third eye, [since] messages are hidden in questions.”
Ballot question 2, which is state authorization of up to 12 new additional charter schools and charter school expansions, was one that was widely discussed amongst the NAACP members and executive board.
Many members were asserting how the addition and expansion of charter schools would hurt the public education system, especially in urban cities where resources and teaching faculty are beginning to diminish due to budget cuts in the public school system.
Darlande Joseney, a junior crime and justice studies major and the chapter Secretary voiced her concern over gentrification and the impact on urban cities’ infrastructure.
“What community center or resource center are they going to remove to make space for these new charter schools?”
Along with question 2, question 4, which is the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana, also brought along heated discussion, regarding its state, excise and even local municipality taxes. Members who are also residential students were skeptical of how the university itself would handle the issue if marijuana was legalized.
Alongside discussion of the 2016 ballot questions, the NAACP chapter invited LaSella Hall, Associate Director of the Fredrick Douglass Unity House to the meeting to discuss the importance of the upcoming presidential election and the stakes that it holds, along with the NAACP members being the active agents for stimulating social change on campus.
“The next President of the United States may appoint up to 4 Supreme Court justices,” said Hall. “That would not only affect [you all], but also your children and even grandchildren… [As members] you all need to get out there and inform people.”
At the meeting’s conclusion, co-advisor David Gomes gave out absentee ballots for any members who have not registered in Dartmouth but are registered in their hometowns. He also spoke about provisional ballots, which are used to record votes if there are questions on a voter’s eligibility.
“As an advisor, I’d like to see the development of well-informed and effective agents of social change,” says Gomes. “These are the founding members with a voice. They’re either going to whisper or roar.”
The NAACP Chapter meetings are held biweekly, with the next meeting being held on November 10. For more information on the Chapter, and how to join, you can contact Chapter President Melany Morales through email.