Niles/Buchanan NAACP branch to reactivate

Published 4:53 pm Friday, January 26, 2024

NILES — A historical organization aiming to help address the needs of the community is one step closer to making its return to the Niles area.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Planning Committee hosted a community event Thursday evening at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, 601 Ferry Street, Niles in an effort to revitalize the Niles chapter of the NAACP. 

Founded in 1909, the organization is an interracial endeavor striving to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.

“People are looking for answers to the problems we’re facing in our community and how we can respond to that,” said Cam Herth of the NAACP Planning Committee. “The NAACP has a long, rich history in dealing with a lot of these issues – not just for black and brown people, but for all people. So now’s the time; we have an opportunity, we have interest in the community so we’re looking forward to responding to the community and seeing how we can be a greater service and addressing these many issues.”

More than 30 community members from Niles and Buchanan attended the event, which marked a significant step in the reestablishment process of the NAACP in the Niles/Buchanan area. The NAACP, a cornerstone of civil rights advocacy, is calling upon individuals and organizations to be part of the 100 applicants that will contribute to the resurgence of its vital presence in the community.  The group is not just for African-Americans. Members of all minority groups and anyone interested in the agenda of equality are encouraged join.

NAACP Planning Committee member Beverly Woodson was pleased with the strong turnout.

“It means the world to me,” she said. “This means that we are coming together as one.”

The NAACP Niles chapter began in March 1942 and had been a voice for human equality by addressing local issues through advocacy and communication, as well as sought to educate members and the public on history and current concerns before dissolving in 2018.

The meeting provided an opportunity for community members to connect, share insights, and actively contribute to the conversation around equality and justice. During the event, applications for NAACP membership were made available, offering attendees the chance to play an integral role in the organization’s revival. Both Yvonne White, president of the Michigan NAACP, and Cle Jackson, the president of the NAACP Grand Rapids chapter, were on hand for the event.

Community members were able to ask questions and learn more about the organization.

“When you look at the history of the NAACP, it’s about mobilizing the community and also coming together and being proactive instead of reacting,” said community member Dr. Odelet N. West. “That’s the power of the community and coming together. When you’re thinking about all the various issues, you’re also thinking about how you can be proactive to prevent the issues from rising.”

The branch needs to obtain 100 memberships prior to May 1 to be eligible for reinstatement. Jethrow Kyles, an intervention specialist at Niles Community Schools, was pleased to see steps being taken to reactivate the Niles/Buchanan branch.

“If you look at the history of the NAACP, you see a lot of faces,” Kyles said. “A lot of things it accomplished would not have happened without that interracial collaboration. Hopefully that is the case here too. It’s not a one ethnicity issue, it is an American issue. I’m excited… We’re also interested in involving youth and youth programs. They have to be aware of the history of the NAACP and obviously they are our future.”

For more information regarding the NAACP and how to join, contact (269) 357-1151 or email nilesbuchananarea@yahoo.com. A second planning meeting will be hosted Thursday, Feb. 22 at Mt. Calvary Church.

“This is just one of what I think will be many meetings that we have that will inform the community on this wonderful initiative catching wind and taking off in this area,” Herth said.