On Jan. 18, Albion College community members were invited to a virtual organizing meeting with the primary purpose of electing the executive board of the NAACP chapter at Albion College. The chapter is a new student organization that has been in the making for over ten years, according to Robert Dunklin, president of the Albion city branch of the NAACP.
“National bylaws ask that [local branches] reach out to all colleges and universities and try to get chapters,” said Dunklin. “Sometimes I thought I had footing and some interest, but not enough interest. I think it somewhat started last year when all the incidents happened on campus and I think more students saw the need for the NAACP to be a part of the conversation.”
In the spring of 2021, a series of racist incidents occurred on campus, culminating with racist messages written on an individual’s whiteboard at Wesley Hall and a stairwell in Mitchell Towers. Afterward, students, faculty, staff and community members organized a series of protests on-campus. On April 9, the Albion branch of the NAACP and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights hosted a virtual community forum to discuss the racist incidents.
Esmeralda Trevino, Dallas senior, was elected as president of the Albion College chapter of the NAACP. Trevino was heavily involved in organizing the series of protests, leading to an interest in working with the NAACP.
“That’s why I wanted to join the NAACP chapter here, to continue some of the work that was started through the protests, to hold our college accountable, to hold our faculty accountable, to hold our students accountable, and support the community that surrounds the college,” said Trevino.
Nels Christensen and Jess Roberts, associate professors of English, are faculty advisors for the Albion College chapter. According to Christensen and Roberts, they didn’t feel ready to advise a chapter at Albion College because they didn’t feel like they had enough experience working with the Albion branch.
Their future involvement with the Albion branch of the NAACP as members of the executive board, Roberts’ involvement with the Albion Big Read program, and Christensen’s work with the local school board allowed them to be prepared for this role.
“We’ve known for a long time that President Dunklin, he’s been wanting to get a chapter started for years, way earlier than 2018,” said Christensen. “At that point, we didn’t think it’d be proper to take on a leadership position in the chapter without the blessing of the NAACP.”
Dunklin, Christensen and Roberts have made it clear that students run the Albion College chapter, while they serve the chapter simply as supporters of the chapter. Dunklin, however, hopes that the chapter becomes involved with issues concerning voting rights, such as informing students of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act by encouraging students to speak to their elected officials and to encourage more students to vote.
“That is one of the most critical things at this time that the NAACP is working on as we speak,” said Dunklin. “We’ve been doing this work all these years and we keep asking, ‘why are we fighting for the same issues over and over again?,’ then we ask, ‘if voting is not that important, why are the people trying to keep black and brown people from voting?’”
Currently, the Albion College chapter is working on meeting regularly throughout the semester. According to Trevino, the chapter is planning to get involved in the core revision process by pushing for a race-focused course, registering people to vote, working with other colleges for a bigger voting rights campaign and getting involved with the Albion branch on community-focused programming.
“We also definitely want to partner with other organizations, especially groups from the Umbrella organizations,” said Trevino. “We definitely want to get their insights when planning events that don’t only deal with Black or White but also Latinx or students from different countries.”
Students interested in learning more about the Albion College chapter of the NAACP can reach out to Anisa Moore, first vice president of the chapter and co-chair of the membership committee, at email@example.com or Ian Lee, assistant treasurer and co-chair of the membership committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org.