GW NAACP revives presence on campus

Media Credit: Olivia Anderson | Hatchet Photographer

Kristen Barnes, the president of GW's chapter of the NAACP, has high hopes for the organization this year as membership has swelled from just a few members to nearly 80.

Updated: Oct. 29, 2015 at 7:50 p.m.

From joining the Million Man March to meeting with congressmen on Capitol Hill, GW’s NAACP chapter has a growing presence on campus.

Just one year ago, membership hovered at about five or six active members. After rechartering this year, which makes them a nationally recognized group, the group now includes nearly 80 active members, its president, senior Kristen Barnes, said.

Barnes, who is a former Hatchet reporter, said that new perks, like more networking and events for members, have drawn in students.

“I think this year we knew, ‘OK, yes members do have to pay dues. But this is what you’re getting out of your dues,’” she said. “It’s not just, ‘Hand over your money and you’ll never get to see that ever again.’”

For example, this year Barnes hopes to pair up with other branches of the NAACP by hosting mixers with members at American, Howard and Georgetown universities. Barnes also added a new freshman representative executive board position to reach more of the student body.

The national branch of the NAACP formed in the early 1900s to tackle issues like voter registration and civil rights, which Barnes said her group still focuses on today. This year, the branch is working with iVote, an organization dedicated to making voting more accessible. GW NAACP will attend an event hosted by iVote in D.C. in November, Barnes said.

“Every day there’s something that happens that sparks a new conversation but they’re all surrounding civil rights and equality,” she said. “So, I think that is really important for me to have these conversations, but to take action to figure out what it is that we can do as college students.”

She added that the group was invited to participate in America’s Journey for Justice, a march from Selma, Ala. to D.C. Some members, Barnes said, come to the NAACP because several generations of their family have been involved.

“They came over with their parents who were members of the organization and the parents said, ‘I’m a member. This is like a thing within our family. Let’s continue, go ahead and sign you up for your membership now,’” she said.

Barnes also worked closely with Whitney Dixon, the GW branch’s former leader. Dixon said that she thinks membership has grown partially because the NAACP appeals to many college students of color “who can relate to a lot of what’s going on in the news.”

“You don’t have to be a minority to see discrimination on a daily basis,” Dixon said.

Barnes also said that collaborating with the D.C. chapter of the NAACP has helped boost membership. Through the D.C. branch, Barnes said she was able to consult longtime members of the organization.

Barnes also works with Krystal Leaphart, the D.C. branch adviser who trains college chapter leaders and makes sure they have the resources they need to operate. Leaphart said she’s happy that GW students see that the NAACP is “relevant to them.”

“Our college chapters have always been extremely active and willing to take on different challenges,” Leaphart said. “So I’m just seeing a lot of positive energy coming into the chapters.”

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The America’s Journey for Justice march was from Selma, Ala. to D.C. not from D.C. to Selma, Ala. We regret this error.

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