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The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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NAACP building to expand beyond the “bubble”

When Dr. Andrew Billingsley ’51 spoke on campus several weeks ago, he conveyed special pride in his involvement with the Grinnell College chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). During his time as a student here, Billingsley was one of only two black students on campus. Since his graduation in 1951, the group on Grinnell campus all but disappeared, leaving no trace of its location or possible operations.

NAACP Meeting
Charisma Monfort '11 speaks with other members of the Grinnell NAACP during their lunchtime meeting on Wednesday - Sophie Fajardo

“We know that the college had an NAACP organization but there’s really no documentation for why it collapsed. We’re trying to take care to document what we do. That way if anyone wants to come after us, they’ll know the whens, the wheres, the hows, the whys,” said Christian Snow ’13, current President of the Grinnell NAACP chapter.

Snow hopes rejuvenating the Grinnell Chapter will fulfill a need on campus for an organization working to mobilize and assist all members of the campus community, but also to reach out to the greater Grinnell community—Including the state, the region as well as activists and leaders on the national level.

“We have a lot of organizations on Grinnell’s campus, but the issue is that we have a lot of smaller organizations on campus that deal with specific issues and typically all of these organizations don’t tend to work together,” Snow said.

Because of Grinnell’s size and location, many people feel that the ideals and passions of Grinnellians are trapped in the Grinnell “bubble.”
Due to the NAACP being such a structured, organized and active organization, its members hope that a chapter that is part of a larger activist group will allow Grinnellians to break away from simply preaching to other

Grinnellians and ultimately make their voices heard by a broader audience.

“We’re trying to make this organization be the needle that pops this ‘Grinnell’ bubble.” Snow said. “A lot of the time we don’t recognize that there are greater implications of events on the world outside of Grinnell campus. Being a part of the NAACP would help bring the outside world to Grinnell and Grinnell to the outside world.”

The NAACP has historically focused on the inequality of blacks in America, though faculty adviser Michael Hunt emphasized that the group aims to address and rectify all injustices.

“The NAACP is race-based,” Hunt said. “But Julian Bond, who is the past chairman of the board would often say colored people come in all shades and all colors. This is a reminder that this isn’t a black group. That’s
more of the assumption. It is a group that is constantly looking to help others. Like Dr. King himself said, ‘Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.’ You will see us standing up for all folks who have experienced discrimination of any sort.”

The NAACP college chapters are designed to follow the national organization’s agenda for each year. This is not definitive, though, as it is ultimately up to the individuals in each chapter how they see the agenda fitting into their campus.

This year the agenda set forward by the national committee involves three components—racial inequality education, economic inequality awareness and civic justice.

A major goal for Grinnell NAACP chapter for this year is to get enough members to join that they chapter would be able to break off into separate committees that could focus on one of the three issues set forth on the national agenda.

For example, one committee will work to educate the greater Grinnell community about color based inequalities and issues. They would host events to bring school kids from the community and educate and expose them to many different aspects and ideas on diversity.

Another committee will focus on economic inequality awareness for the greater Grinnell community and also at the state and regional level.

“Economically, we would deal with housing situations and talk to people about housing problems for minorities. We would go out into the community and focus our energies on helping the underclass and the poor,” Snow said.

“The Civic Justice Committee will be in charge of a lot of the community service. Economics and education would be more about awareness, and civic justice would be more about action and getting our members out into the community to help,” Snow said.

Snow emphasized that while the chapter is still in the initial building stages, the group is only as strong as its members. And it needs members.

“When it comes to the national conference a lot of what goes on is voting for what the national board and the national conference will be doing in the upcoming year,” Snow said. ”If Grinnellians really have something to say, [the national committee] is going to recognize it by how many members we have. The more members we have, the more times we get to say, ‘Hey listen to me.’”

The group plans to start meeting very regularly in the next couple of weeks and is hoping to have a member drive within the next couple of days. If there are any faculty or staff wants to help support this group they can contact Mr. Hunt. The group is looking especially for faculty of staff who would like to sponsor memberships.

For information on the Grinnell chapter of the NAACP e-mail the group at

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