A larger than average crowd filled Christ Temple Community Church on Saturday for the January General Membership Meeting for the NAACP Colorado Springs Branch. The meeting was entitled “Maintaining the Momentum: We Take Action!”
Over 50 people came for the lively meeting—some were lifetime NAACP members and some were concerned citizens at their first NAACP meeting.
While the meeting addressed various topics, emphasis was placed on the need for persistent activism as well as the need for education.
Much of the discussion focused on the new presidential administration and the related developments. State Conference President Rosemary Harris-Lytle said that the national NAACP had officially stated their opposition to President Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.
She noted that Colorado’s U.S. Senator Michael Bennet sat on the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and urged the audience to contact his office. “We think we know where Senator Bennet would vote on this issue, but frankly we haven’t yet heard from him.”
“We don’t take it for granted that Senator Bennet is on our side, or anyone,” said Harris-Lytle. “We have no permanent friends, no permanent enemies, only permanent issues.”
Even as national politics dominated the conversation, some spoke of the danger in overcommitting to national politics and in turn neglecting local or state politics. Local events and protests were announced and Colorado Springs’ SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) organizer Mac Sergeant provided details on upcoming actions.
The core of the program featured a panel composed of Inclusion Consultant Jody Alyn, a CC alum, Rev. Dr. Stephany Rose, State Rep. Pete Lee, and NAACP State Conference Political Action Chair Dawn Haliburton-Rudy.
Alyn focused on the importance of historical perspective. She said, “one of the most important things we can do is remember our history.” Alyn noted that when a movement in opposition to civil rights and diversity coalesced in the 1970s, “these folks talked in terms of 50-year plans and century-long strategies.”
“It’s important not to just say this is going to be a long haul, but to know that it is going to be a long haul,” said Alyn. “To connect with one another, to give each other options to step out for self-care… and to hang together.”
Another topic broached by the panel was race education, or lack thereof, in the American school system. Rose, who teaches at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, said she often encounters students who say “something was missing in their K-12 education, something was critically missing, and they walked in my door and said, ‘why didn’t I know this?’” Rose added that we are “in a space of lack of memory… a lack of cultural memory.”
Stephen Maddox spoke of his time as a teacher in New York public schools in the 1970s where “there was no kind of minority studies, no black history.” He recalled that students protested to no avail.
“We are in a moment where we need to be educating the life out of us,” said Rose.
Rose concluded by saying “we have to get out of our boxes… I know students walk on campus in my class with guns, I refuse to buy a gun, but I know it is present, but we will navigate this conversation together, and it is the spaces that we are disconnected from each other that the work has to happen.”
Lee, in his 4th and final term representing House District 18, said, “we are in an area politically that we have never been in. Never had we had a president who has had no government, no experience in the military.” Lee admitted he was skeptical that Donald Trump would ever win the Republican nomination, much less the presidency, and he was proven wrong. “I am no longer a skeptic, things will happen unless we take action.”
In the spirit of action, Haliburton-Rudy disseminated packets with the contact information of Colorado Springs City Councilmembers.
Audience members were implored to contact their representatives, and the young people in the crowd were especially encouraged. “We need you young people,” said Branch President Lisa Villanueva.
Harris-Lytle, the State Conference President, said after the meeting that “my daughter graduated from CC in 2010. I love CC, but we must hold the school and students accountable for privilege.”
“We are running uphill in altitude weather with the wind in our face,” said Rose. His sentiment was reflected in the audience. As people left the meeting, there was a sense of solidarity but also recognition of both facing and moving forward in the challenging times ahead.