By Kathryn Mobley, Scribblers 29
Special to The Truth
In November, U.S. citizens will cast their ballot in the 2022 mid-term elections. Democrats, Independents and Republicans are scrambling to capture support in their favor—hoping this translates into votes and political success on November 8.
At the same time, the NAACP is also pea cocking to catch the attention of a different target group. One they hope will support the organization’s mission and visions for decades to come—high schoolers.
“Most of our young people are not involved with organizations around social justice and equality,” explains Carter D. Womack, PhD. He’s a life-long member of the NAACP as well as the president/CEO of Leadership At It’s Best, based in Columbus, Ohio.
The 71-year-old entrepreneur fears many young people live in ‘social media silos’, not connected with ‘real life’ political and economic issues. “They strictly live on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TicTok and on other social media platforms. They worry about who’ll attend the next party, the next big song to drop, or who’s setting the latest fashion trend,” says Dr. Womack. He joined NAACP when he was 20-years-old.
According to NAACP.org, there are 550 junior youth councils, youth councils, high school chapters and college chapters under its national umbrella. Units across the country develop new civil rights and community leaders through social action programs.
In September, Womack attended the 92nd State Convention of the Ohio Conference of the NAACP.
Representatives from sixteen cities and counties across Ohio gathered at the Crowne Plaza in Columbus North-Worthington for the two-day conference. He met a group of high school students from Columbus Academy.
“They didn’t know about the NAACP, it’s history and what units are doing today,” says Womack. “They also had no clue young people could join.” He explained the organization and connected the dots of how its work benefit their lives today. “Then I told them, ‘I’m going to pay your membership for the next year.’ They all raised their hands and almost in unison they said, ‘We’ll take it’. So I wrote a check for 13 memberships and they joined the Columbus’ youth unit.”
Alexis Cunningham is one of the beneficiaries. At 5’5, the 16-year-old senior loves chemistry, mathematics and music. She plays both the viola and the upright bass, contributing her talents to the school’s jazz band, the Urban Strings and to the Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra. She proudly sports large, gold hoop earrings and wavy, natural hair pulled up in a top bun. “For nine years, I’ve attended a predominantly white institution, so it’s been hard for me to make my way as a young African American woman,” says Cunningham. “I think being apart of NAACP will give me a sense of pride and of community. I’ll have others around me to uplift me as I figure out who I am.”
Womack tells the students he’ll follow up with them to confirm they are participating with the Columbus Youth Unit. Their echos of thanks encircle him as each student reaches out to either shake his hand or hug him. Later, the businessman confides he bought their memberships because he’s observed another lack in the Columbus school curriculum.
“Many of our schools don’t have student councils where you learn about running for office, you learn how to be an officer, how to conduct a meeting according to Roberts Rules of Order and how to lead people to actually get something done.” This is where Womack believes the NAACP can bridge some of these social foundation gaps by teaching teamwork, educating about the importance of voting, walking youth through the election process and promoting motivated youth capable of stepping into leadership roles.
Meanwhile, Cunningham sees the NAACP as a vehicle that will help her make a difference in her city and in this country. “There are many African American children who are not as fortunate as I am. They don’t have a lot of family support,” A warm, broad smile consumes her caramel face. “As a member of NAACP, I will be a role model for young African Americans, especially females. I can encourage them, show them my passion. My generation is going to make a great impact and be a wonderful benefit to this country.”