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Columbia NAACP Youth Council experiences renewed interest

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 | 7:48 p.m. CST; updated 1:39 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 12, 2009

COLUMBIA – There is a revival of youth involvement in the NAACP happening in Columbia. Both the Columbia Youth Council and the MU chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are active once again.

After a hiatus, the Columbia Youth Council regained its charter in February 2008. The NAACP requires 25 members for a youth council to obtain a charter. The original charter was lost several years ago when the Columbia Youth Council's high school seniors graduated, leaving few older members ready to assume leadership positions.

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Even when there was not enough interest for a youth council, young members were still involved in the adult chapter of NAACP, said adviser Pamela Hardin, who is the daughter of state and local chapter President Mary Ratliff.

The Columbia Youth Council acts as an arm of the Columbia NAACP group as the adult chapter rebuilds. Youth members have participated in joint programs and volunteer their time to assist with the adult chapter's events.

The MU chapter reorganized about six years ago, just before current president, Brian Washington, enrolled at MU. Washington said a main goal of the chapter, which operates independently of the adult chapter, is about becoming more visible in the community and organizing public rallies.

Washington said he still sees civil rights as the main focus of the NAACP. “It should always be known for that, but now it should be a whole lot more.”

It also should be about “educating minorities, educating them about their health, how to protect themselves … and help on a broader scale,” he said.

Stephany Cox, a senior at Hickman High School and president of the Columbia Youth Council, said the council's current mission is to inform youth of their rights and educate those who are afraid to stand up for themselves.

Hickman senior Gary Smith, second vice president of the Columbia Youth Council, said the response of his peers to the NAACP is positive, and he thinks most are open to hearing more even if they choose not to join.

During the past election season, the Columbia Youth Council went door-to-door to promote voter registration. Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the national NAACP, began his activism in a similar manner, according to the Washington Post.

The MU chapter has been hosting events in honor of the 100th anniversary of the NAACP. Events include a forum on the N-word and cultural awareness as well as a watch party for the Image Awards.

The MU chapter primarily utilizes fliers, Facebook and word-of-mouth to reach prospective members and advertise events.

Recruitment for the Columbia Youth Council is currently done by word-of-mouth, but there are plans for a membership drive to reach more youth.

The council does not have an organized Facebook presence yet, but that could change, Cox said. She also hopes to create a Web site specifically for the Columbia Youth Council.

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