Local NAACP chapter one member short of reaching compliance

The university’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter is one member away from being reinstated in the national organization’s college network, an officer in the group said.

Dominique Akins, vice president and treasurer of the university’s NAACP chapter, said the chapter, which was founded in 2004, hasn’t been officially recognized by the NAACP Youth and College Division since 2006 because of low membership.

The group aims to serve as the voice for all students at the university and to break down racial barriers that may arise, according to its mission statement.

Gary Briggs, a junior political science major who served as president last year, said a college chapter is considered to be in compliance when membership reaches 25.

Briggs said when this year’s freshmen become active members, the group should have no problem meeting that qualification.

“The freshman class just came in ready to go – so active,” Briggs said. “They haven’t become members immediately, but they come to the meetings every other Tuesday and they’re really active, so we have the potential to become a very strong chapter well above 25 members.”

Krystal Upshaw, president of the university’s NAACP chapter, said one reason interest has increased this year is the group is more structured and organized. When the founding members graduated, interest and involvement declined, and Briggs basically had to restart the organization with no one to guide him, she said.

“This year we have a structure in place, and we all get along and know each other,” Upshaw said.

She said more than 25 people regularly attend meetings and participate in events, however only 24 have paid dues, which is required of active members.

The reason for this, Upshaw said, is that students don’t recognize the benefits of official membership.

Briggs and Akins said one of the biggest perks of being recognized by the NAACP’s college division is the campus organization will be able to receive funding from the national organization as well as from the university’s Student Government Association.

Upshaw said another important benefit is the opportunity to attend the national organization’s events.

“We’ll be able to participate in local, regional and national conventions,” Upshaw said.

Briggs said the university’s NAACP chapter isn’t well known outside the minority community, and he hopes by reaching compliance, students will be more aware of the group and what it does on campus.

One of the group’s main focuses is getting freshmen involved, Akins said.

“We really try to reach out to incoming freshmen, to ease them in and to show them what resources are available to them,” Akins said.

There has also been a focus on the election, Briggs said.

“Voting and the election is the key issue in 2008,” Briggs said. “Last year we hosted presidential informationals, we registered people to vote, which is huge, and we stressed the importance of voting.”

The group has also hosted forums on issues such as homelessness and the African versus black divide, he said.

Both Briggs and Akins said one misconception about the group is it is only for black people.

“We’ve been striving to open it up to everyone, and we want it to be really diverse,” Akins said.

Briggs said the NAACP provides students with the opportunity to be active on campus and to meet people with similar views and goals.

*Editor’s note: Krystal Upshaw is a Skiff reporter.