Train Up Our Youth: NAACP Religious Affairs

Article excerpt

THE LAST WORD

Recently the NAACP, with outstanding youth participation from the faith community, marched 50,000 strong on the state capitol of Florida to protest Gov. Jeb Bush's attack on affirmative action. A similar march drew world attention to the Confederate battle flag that has long been raised over the state capitol of South Carolina, successfully bringing pressure to remove it.

The NAACP was successful in organizing both of these marches because of its Religious Affairs Department and Youth and College Division. In both states we mobilized our youthful marchers by reaching out to the faith community, the traditional but informal relationship between the NAACP and the black church.

Together, the religious department and the youth division of the NAACP encourage African-American youth to "Race to Vote" on election day and "Count Me In" for a full U.S. Census 2000 count.

Next to the African-American church, the NAACP Youth and College Division is the largest organization of African American youth. We follow Proverbs 22:6.1: "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Many NAACP members are second-generation members who have been in the struggle since their youth. In the year 2000, 90 percent of all NAACP Youth and College Division members are from the faith community.

The NAACP's ACT-SO (Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics) is a year-round scholarship competition (founded by Vernon Jarrett) that often is conducted in churches. Similarly, the NAACP's "Back-To-School/Stay-In-School" dropout prevention program is sponsored by churches.

The NAACP national convention and regional conferences open with gospel extravaganzas produced by the Religious Affairs Department. By involving as many contemporary gospel artists as possible, we give young people positive choices in their music. "Gospel Rap" is an alternative to "Gangsta Rap." It is important to recognize that hiphop is a youth sub-culture that has positive and negative aspects. We accentuate the positive as spiritual stewards.

What our youth feed their spirits with through music and dance will shape the direction they take. When artists like Kirk Franklin, Vickie Winans, and Fred Hammond make a joyful noise unto the Lord, the NAACP lifts them up. In July in Baltimore, Yolanda Adams will headline a concert at the NAACP's national convention. …