NAACP State President Addresses GSU Student ‘State of the Union’

Nadia Dreid

Over 30 students pledged to join the Georgia Southern University NAACP Thursday night after being addressed by local businessman Jonathan McCollar and the president of the Georgia NAACP Dr. Francys Johnson. It was the organization’s first general body meeting of the semester.

“I am here for one reason and one reason alone, and that is because someone told a lie a long time ago,” Johnson said in his opening remarks. “That because of the texture of your hair, the broadness of your nose, the composition of melanin in your skin, that you were less than . . . and that lie has been repeated over and over and over again and been used to deny life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to too many people.”

Johnson, a GSU alum and former Student Government Association president, encouraged students to become the generation that “stomps out” the lie that some people are inferior to others and expressed his disappointment at being told that the GSU NAACP was struggling to remain active on campus.

“Surely if there should be an NAACP in any college – and we’ve resurrected 21 other college NAACPs between last year and now – it should be at Georgia Southern University?” Johnson said.

Protesting the local theater’s refusal to screen the 1992 film Malcolm X when it was released and campaigning for recognition of black contributions to Georgia Southern history are only a few of the things GSU’s NAACP has accomplished in the past, Johnson said.

The NAACP is an umbrella organization, Johnson said, which means that in order to join many of the historically black students organizations on campus, such as the Divine Nine, students must first be NAACP members. They also must be registered to vote.

“Those organizations all have a shared mission in terms of uplifting underserved communities and certainly communities of color, and so one can’t be a part of that uplift if one is not engaged as a voter, if one is not engaged in thinking deeply about the critical issues of the day,” Johnson said.

McCollar encouraged students to get involved, be aware of the politics of their surroundings and to protest with their wallets and pocketbooks.

“They want your money, but they don’t want your voice,” McCollar said. “Don’t spend your money with people that don’t care about your interests.”

While traditionally campaigning for the rights of black Americans, Johnson said that it is vital for the NAACP to be inclusive of all groups and for others to recognize that black Americans want the same things as their nonblack counterparts.

“The values that are held by African-Americans are the same values by which all Americans want to live – they want a good education, a fair criminal justice system, equal access to participate in the electoral process, communities that are healthy and they want an environment that is clean,” Johnson said. “These are things that are not black and white. These are things that are red, white and blue.”

Dr. Saba Jallow, GSU NAACP faculty advisor and director of the Center for Africana Studies, said he was happy with the turnout and credited the current leadership of the organization for the renewed student interest.

Jallow said that students should remember that the NAACP is open to everyone and is dedicated to making life better for all people.

“There are always problems out there in terms of progress which has been made and taken back. We always have to stand together, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re black, white, Asian, Hispanic,” Jallow said. “Membership of this organization gives you the road to make things better for everybody.”