NAACP Chapter Energizes Activist
by Anisah Hashmi '11
April 1, 2011
To ensure that the NAACP chapter she founded continues, Corinthia Jacobs ’11 (left) is working with Reggie Glosson ‘14 to take over the leadership next year.
As president of the African American Society Corinthia Jacobs ’11 has spent her four years at Dickinson creating mainstream spaces for people of color through events like the Soul Café, an annual gathering in which students celebrate their rich cultural heritage while also enjoying food and entertainment.
But being the activist and restless spirit that she is, Jacobs felt this wasn’t enough. She wanted to move beyond cultivating social events to addressing more pressing issues of discrimination. So she founded the first National Association for the Advance-ment of Colored People (NAACP) chapter at Dickinson this fall to strengthen bonds with other activists on campus under the NAACP umbrella.
Jacobs saw the potential for this organization—founded in 1909 by a group of white liberal men and women who wanted to end racial injustice—to train its members to become leaders and support them as activists.
During the summer, Jacobs attended an NAACP summit in Washington, D.C., where students from around the United States learned the differences between problems and issues and how to resolve them. She wanted to bring the same infectious energy back to campus to tackle multidimensional issues. “It felt like I was in the ’60s,” she observed. “We would stay up all night having deep intellectual conversations about real-world issues.”
The goal of the chapter—which has 25 members—is to create spaces on campus that are more welcoming for people of color, she says. Jacobs also hopes to work in the Carlisle community to promote the Youth PROMISE Act, which addresses the issue of gang violence among at-risk youth. By connecting with the organization’s strong national network, the Dickinson chapter would participate in conference calls and phone banks, meet with senators, lobby in Washington, D.C., and attend legislation days.
This semester, however, the chapter is focused on identifying problems in the Dickinson and Carlisle communities by conducting surveys and interviews. The board consists of seniors who are equipped with the skills to train new leaders and build a strong foundation for a sustainable organization.
“We want to encourage the school to take more of an active stance on its discrimination policy,” Jacobs said. She feels that Dickinson relies too heavily on the students to take action rather than taking administrative steps to better enforce policies. “We want to ask for more representation on the board of trustees and to make policy changes. We don’t want Band-Aid solutions,” she said.
Joyce Bylander, special assistant to the president for institutional and diversity initiatives, supports Jacobs’ objectives. “The college welcomes the establishment of an NAACP chapter on campus and looks forward to opportunities to work with students on issues related to diversity and to continue to improve the campus climate,” she said.
Jacobs, an Africana-studies major, was moved to hear about the prior activist work of Komozi Woodard ’71, who recently spoke on campus about his time as a student. At Dickinson, he founded the Congress of African Students and co-taught a sociology class, Perspectives on Race. Jacobs looks to icons like Woodard, a history professor who holds the Esther Raushenbush Chair at Sarah Lawrence College, for her inspiration.
“When I think about all the people before me and all the sacrifices they made for us to have an Africana-studies department or an African American Society at Dickinson, I know that I have to keep their legacy going,” she said. “There’s a reason why I’ve been put in this space to do great things.”