Link to Original Article: New Haven NAACP: Article in the New Haven Register about our Centennial Kick-Off Event
Greater New Haven NAACP reaches century mark
By Brian Zahn, New Haven Register
NEW HAVEN… Although Dori Dumas, president of the Greater New Haven Branch of the NAACP, considered a Wednesday reception at the Peabody Museum of Natural History to be a celebration of the chapter’s 100th anniversary, she also wishes it weren’t necessary.
“I wish we didn’t need it,” she said. “We celebrate the milestone, but we’re well aware that the work continues.”
The event Wednesday kicked off what Dumas sees as being a yearlong celebration of the work the local NAACP chapter has done to advocate for racial justice in the area.
At the time the local branch launched, eight years after the NAACP formed nationally, the NAACP was busy working to put an end to lynchings and unfair opportunity and access.
David Canton, an associate professor of history and director of the Africana Studies Program at Connecticut College, who presented an abridged history of the Greater New Haven NAACP branch’s first three decades, said a lot of the chapter’s initial issues are pervasive.
“Some things change, and some things stay the same,” he said.
For the NAACP, these stubborn issues are things such as educational inequity, housing discrimination and voting rights.
“We’ve made a lot of our gains through the courts,” Dumas said, “but we’ve also made some small gains just by being for equal rights and talking about the importance of coming together.”
Dumas said the NAACP never lost its spirit of radicalism in 100 years, although “sometimes we need to step it up.” Those small gains, she said, often came from uniting to knock on doors or demand meetings with mayors and school superintendents.
“We’re still working on economic equity,” she said, although NAACP programs have helped at least some in the community become homeowners and small-business owners.
Nicole Murphy, chairwoman for the local NAACP’s Centennial Freedom Fund Dinner, said to this day residents are “overtly reminded that freedom is not free.” The best remedy to remedying inequity, she said, would be an engaged citizenry and unrestricted access to voting.
Dumas said that, since its inception, the NAACP has involved a broad coalition. In his research, Canton located charter documents indicating that two of the first four executive officers were white men.
Mayor Toni Harp, the city’s second black and first female mayor, attended the event as a speaker. As far as how the city has made strides toward racial equality during her time in office, Harp cited the Youth Stat program, which takes a data-based approach to identify at-risk youths, as one of the strongest gains. What remains to be done, she said, includes finding opportunities for people reintegrating into society after incarceration.
“We’ve really got to find ways to get as many people employed,” she said.
On the housing front, Harp said she believes New Haven is a leader in the state in providing affordable housing, but the state as a whole does not have enough affordable housing for its population.
“People have got to be able to live here,” she said.
Nakitta Brown, a co-adviser for the NAACP’s youth council and the mother of a senior at James Hillhouse High School, said there is still work to be done in city schools.
“We need more minority recruitment and teachers of color, the funding is unfair, a lot of the kids in the city have trauma,” Brown said. “There’s not as much diversity in the teachers and we need to get better at that.”
Although Dumas described membership as the branch’s “lifeblood,” she also gave airtime at the ceremony to a corporate sponsor, Key Bank.
Harp said the continued existence of the local chapter could be seen as an act of resistance against the contemporary “separatist movement” and what is seemingly a “sympathetic ear in Washington.”
“There is a great deal of progress to celebrate tonight,” she said. “We certainly can’t accept any steps backward.”