Formed in 1909, the NAACP is the United States’ oldest civil rights organization. They pride themselves on this fact, noting that leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson got their start with the organization. But more so, they are proud that in their 110 years of existence, they have continued to push forward racial justice reforms and legislation, working to create a more just and equitable United States.
Arlington’s NAACP Branch, led by President Julius “JD” Spain, Sr., has been around since 1940. Spain, assisted by members and leaders of the branch, works closely with Arlington and Virginia leaders, Senators, Council Members, and more to set new laws in place and designate programs to tackle issues such as prison reform, political action, and women’s equality.
As the video of George Floyd’s death surfaced and protesters took to the streets, many Americans have been asking how they can do more to support the black community. Spain’s suggestion? Become a member of and donate to your local NAACP. Not only does the funding help to support the organization’s work, but volunteering a few hours a week, or a month, helps to push forward legislation and pressure local and state officials. In short, it helps communities seek important change.
What can members of the Arlington NAACP Chapter expect to help influence? Currently, Spain and his team are working closely with the Chief of Police, County Board, Congressman Don Beyer, Senator Warner, and others to implement a new standard of policing in Arlington County where all members of law enforcement are required to wear body cameras. Although still working to set funding aside for these new regulations (a petition to help support this project can be found here), Spain is hoping to have them in place by January 2021. Additionally, the Chapter is working to set up a civilian review board – a group of community members who would evaluate arrests and investigations by police to encourage accountability.
While these are excellent ways to get engaged in racial justice as an adult, how can teenagers or children get involved?
Spain is itching to develop a Youth Council at the Arlington Branch. NAACP offers Youth Councils for individuals under 18, as well as “Youth In College” groups, that work to mentor members and teach them how to advocate for social justice. They expose the members to different levels of activism, offer scholarship opportunities, and plan trips to visit other cities and see how those Youth Councils are engaging in their communities. To develop a Youth Community, there needs to be 20-25 individuals interested in joining (with a $12-$15 yearly fee) as well as an adult member to lead and monitor the group.
Ultimately, Spain believes that to create change, the Arlington community must build a culture of inclusivity and diversity. Policies are an excellent start, but “we must work to enforce that culture, have zero tolerance for those who don’t live by those values, and join together to create the community we envision. If you really want to make a difference, come join us” says Spain. “Working together in unity is necessary to accomplish important work.”
For more information about Arlington’s NAACP Chapter, membership, and ways to get involved in racial justice, visit their website today.