The NAACP’s 106th national convention, held in Philadelphia this year, wraps up today. With the growth of social media activism like Black Lives Matter, that started as a hashtag and became an international rallying cry, the organization has faced challenges about it’s relevance on the forefront of civil rights activism. To address those challenges the NAACP has been actively cultivating a new generation. This year’s convention featured plenty of programming, lunches and workshops geared specifically to young organizers.
Forjze Anthony is vice president of the NAACP Columbus Georgia Youth Council and at 14 he’s already a veteran NAACP member.
“I was actually 6 years old when I joined” says Anthony.
Smart, focused and on message, Anthony and his peers represent the next generation of NAACP leadership. They are ready to take on the challenges in the new era of civil rights protests.
The cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tanisha Anderson and other victims of police violence have heightened racial tensions, re-energized old school civil rights activists and spawned a legion of new activists who mobilize through social media. They are free to be outspoken and protest openly. They don’t need the safety and support of being affiliated with or sanctioned by a national organization.
Philadelphian Faye Anderson is founder of Tracking Change, an online platform that promotes transparency and accountability through data. She is not a member of the NAACP but Anderson feels that as protest shifts into the digital realm wooing young people is key to survival.
“For the NAACP to stay relevant they need the energy of young people”, says Anderson.
Will Roberts, is the treasurer of the Columbus Georgia Youth Council. He feels a common purpose with independent activists but wants dispel the idea that the NAACP is old fashioned and behind the times.
“We are old, we’ve been around for a while, but at the same time, we’re adaptable”, says Roberts.
Roberts has a message for other young protesters who think that independence from organized groups is the key to the success of the movement.
I can understand where they’re coming from, those people who stand on the street. They can hold up signs and spread the word. But if you’re standing with thousands of others with the NAACP and trying to spread the word, there’s strength in numbers”.