New campus NAACP chapter aims for youth involvement

One-hundred-four years ago, the grassroots civil rights organization known as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded. Its mission was as follows: To ensure the political, social, educational and economic equality of every human being, and elimination of racial prejudice.

Now, Buffalo State is joining in the legacy, as two students started an NAACP chapter on campus in March, in conjunction with Buffalo’s chapter.

Chapter president Jessica Micha co-founded the chapter with recent graduate Margot Harris.

“When my friend Margot brought me her idea to charter the chapter, I fell in love with the idea,” Micha said. “We used to spend our time in the African-American History section on the second floor in the library, just flipping through all the books. We learned so much up there, and people need to know that there is so much fascinating history that we were not taught.”

That includes the stories of people like Charles Hamilton Houston, the D.C. lawyer known as “The Man Who Killed Jim Crow,” and Mary Talbert, who lived in Buffalo and was at the forefront of the NAACP in her time.

“Talbert was one of the strongest woman activists of her time,” Micha said, noting her involvement in the Niagara Movement, an organization led by W.E.B. DuBois and other activists, that provided an alternative response to segregation and disenfranchisement than the conciliatory approach of Booker T. Washington.

The Buffalo State NAACP will honor Talbert’s work by providing one high school student involved in civil rights or their community with a scholarship in her name, valued at $500. Micha said this would be the chapter’s first big event of the academic year. The chapter will also have a voter registration drive during Weeks of Welcome.

“We would like to connect the community to the college and start a strong relationship for the city of Buffalo, in terms of civil rights awareness and promotion of the democratic vote,” Micha said. “The right to vote is so important in our society, and we need to make sure everyone keeps that right.”

The focus for Micha and other members of the Buffalo State chapter is on history. Oliver Colbert, who also got involved as a friend of Harris’, knew of the NAACP through countless discussions of it in history classes.

“Knowing… all of the mountains that they managed to climb in the past and present (gives me) the fire to keep serving and educating the community with vigor,” Colbert said.

Such a large undertaking is daunting, but the Buffalo chapter serves as an important resource for the organization on campus, providing guidance and insight as to what Buffalo State’s chapter can do to reach out to the community.

“The Buffalo chapter has helped us immensely,” Micha said. “They welcome us to every meeting they have and will also be helping us with programs. We are pleased to have a chapter that is so eager to get young people involved and help us with our endeavors.”

With so much planned, including fundraisers, programs and a mixer, the Buffalo State NAACP is looking ahead to a bright academic year.

“Although nothing is set in stone, we have great plans for the future,” Colbert said.

Angelica Rodriguez can be reached by email at [email protected]