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‘Lift every voice and sing’: Local NAACP branches convene at Eastern

Published on February 29, 2024

‘Lift every voice and sing’: Local NAACP branches convene at Eastern

NAACP Aspire to Inspire Panel
NAACP members speak on a panel in the J. Eugene Smith Library. 

NAACP members across Windham and Mansfield met at Eastern Connecticut State University on Feb. 24 to discuss the importance of their work and their hope for the organization's future. In a panel focused on aspiring for change, members spoke with the community and encouraged attendees to spread the organization’s message of unity, advocacy and celebration. 

The panelists, who are representatives from various branches, all joined the NAACP for different reasons.  

Eastern alumnus and executive committee member of the Windham branch Quincy Maureen Farrow ’18 grew up in a predominantly white area. “Eastern was the first place I became familiar with Black culture,” she said, joking about learning to properly care for her hair and put on lotion. “It’s also the first place where I was able to be a part of something bigger, where I could stand up to injustice.” 

“I didn’t have anyone to fight for me, protect me, to fight for my interests,” said assistant treasurer at the Windham branch Rita Pulliam, recalling her childhood and adolescence. “When I think about those in the past — Black and white — who pushed for freedom, I couldn’t not try to do my part.” 

Youth council member Berni Bynes said, “It’s not a choice for me — racism is everywhere, even where you wouldn’t expect it.” She described an experience while working at a summer camp, where a young girl came up and told her that her dad says people who look like her (Bynes) are evil. Bynes then asked the girl, “Do you think I’m evil?,” to which the girl replied, no.   

Second vice president of Eastern’s branch Sandra Boakye ’26 emphasized the importance of teaching others about the impact and prevalence of racism. “Knowledge is power,” she said. “I give (other students) a platform to ask questions and I let them know the uncomfortable truth.” 

From left to right: youth council members Berni Bynes and Isabelle Perez and adult branch members Quincy Maureen Farrow and Rita Pulliam.

Left to right: Mikhailia Howard, secretary for the NAACP at the University of Connecticut; Sandra Boakye, second vice president for Eastern's NAACP branch; and Christ-Anne Jean Francois, vice president for UCONN's branch

Currently, people of color — especially Black Americans — face “widespread income disparities across racial lines, discrimination in housing and gaps in educational outcomes,” according to Human Rights Watch. Just last year, the Supreme Court ended affirmative action in higher education, further disadvantaging marginalized people.

Unfortunately, NAACP branches aimed at young people — the youth and college branches — often have difficulty maintaining membership. Panelists spoke of the competition social media has with the youth’s attention. Pulliam conversely noted that the media can be used to increase outreach. “You all,” she said to the young members present, “have a lot of platforms. Use them. You never know who has a need.” 

Despite the current difficulties, members of the NAACP are hopeful for the future. Boakye spoke of how her faith continues to motivate her as well as “faith in the people who came before,” citing her family, who immigrated from Ghana. 

Farrow had similar feelings, saying, “Their (previous activists) work pushes us forward.” 

President of the Windham branch Leah Ralls joined members in the audience, showing support and pride for all those who spoke of their experiences within the organization. “It has to come from the heart,” she said. “This work comes from within. We must carry the torch and pass it on to the next generation of activists. It’s up to all of us.” 

Written by Marcus Grant