On Jan. 15, 2018, the Utah Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) held its annual memorial luncheon in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. A number of students, including two from UVU, received scholarship awards at the event.
Due to the words in the organization’s name, perhaps not many people are aware that the NAACP is a civil rights non-profit group interested in equal rights and justice for all, not just for “colored” people. The first objective on the first page of the organization’s constitution asserts that the NAACP exists “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of all citizens.”
It is true that the organization started out in 1909 as a response to racial violence against African-Americans, but not many today know that the founding fathers of the organization were from both white and black races. In fact, of the 60 names that signed the call for the organization’s inaugural meeting, only 6 were African-American. The founding fathers of the NAACP understood that the fight for civil rights, along with the fight to end racial discrimination, was a fight that required the inclusion of all races. This basic and commonsensical fact is what the NAACP wishes that more people would become aware of today.
True to its vision of inclusivity and equality, the Salt Lake chapter of the NAACP, during the memorial luncheon, doled out awards and recognitions to deserving members of the Utah community of diverse races. The awards included the First Responders Awards, which recognizes members of the state police force and fire departments for remarkable exploits while serving Utah communities. Most notable of these was the award that went to Chief Mike Brown and the Salt Lake City Police Department for the Police Pay It Forward program, where the police partner with kids to shop for holiday gifts and school items.
According to Jeanetta Williams, President of the Salt Lake Branch of the NAACP, “People not being aware that the NAACP fights for civil justice for all, and not just for people of color is one of the challenges the organization faces.”
To achieve justice for all, the NAACP needs more members, which would be easier if more were aware of the organization.
According to Shawn Newell, the Vice President of the Salt Lake Branch, “Many students need to know that the NAACP is not just for black people. We are all colored people, both whites and blacks, we are all colored inside. We are all in this together.”
Newell expressed hope for the future of the organization, especially with support from the LDS church.
“The NAACP is very much supported by the LDS church, which is great,” Newell said. “Perhaps what we need to do is to let young people know of the immense support from the church. This would change a lot of minds.”
Students can become members of the NAACP and also receive help not just on civil right issues, but on other needs, as the two scholarship recipients from UVU can attest.
But the larger goal is for all people, regardless of race, to join efforts in the fight for civil rights and justice for all. The fight against racial discrimination in America cannot be won without the participation of all races.