Students Consider Forming NAACP Chapter
On Thursday night, acting head of the Oberlin National Association for the Advancement of Colored People John Gooch met with Oberlin students interested in forming a chapter. With a new chapter president at the helm, the Oberlin City branch of the NAACP is working to renew itself and reach out to students at the College.
“The NAACP has a rich history of helping minorities,” said Gooch. “The NAACP has been involved in almost every issue you can think of.”
Gooch stressed that the organization was not just for African Americans: “We’ve fought the problems of Hispanic people and checked into the legitimate problems of our white members.”
Gooch touted the revitalization of the national NAACP organization. According to Gooch, since the tenure of Kweisi Mfume as NAACP CEO, the civil rights group has been able to fill previously-vacant top leadership posts in all its local chapter organizations. For his part, Gooch, a football coach and social worker who became the chapter president four months ago, is looking to expand the organization at the local level.
In addition to opening a downtown office by the start of next year, Gooch aims to help organize a student chapter on Oberlin’s campus.
“I plan to build this chapter to be one of the biggest and baddest in the county of Lorain,” he said. “I spoke with every pastor and at every church in town…I’m making a lot of promises. I’m not sure I’ll keep them all, but we can try to do what we say.”
The Oberlin NAACP is looking for a more youthful membership, especially for new members between 21 and 50, said Gooch. “I have to recruit younger people who have time and energy,” Gooch said.
Gooch also lauded the activism of students at Oberlin. “Here, students probably solve more problems than any organization,” he said. He noted that an Oberlin College student designed the latest pamphlet printed by the Oberlin City NAACP.
After speaking with students at the meeting, Gooch said he was further impressed by the level of activity at Oberlin College. “Tonight’s been a real learning experience for me,” said Gooch after being informed of the organizations that exist on campus for students of color, which total more than a dozen.
“Only you know about the problems here,” Gooch told students, “I hear about them, but you know about them.”
Courtney Patterson of the Multicultural Resource Center asked Gooch what services which were not currently available the NAACP could provide to students.
“With a College NAACP chapter, you can call on Washington, get our top negotiator, get some back-up,” said Gooch. “We’re not miracle workers, but we can keep an eye on a problem and can do what we have to — file a lawsuit, take people to court.”
He said that a College chapter would not have its own lawyer, but that the City NAACP does have a lawyer and a NAACP lifetime member on its staff.
Though the NAACP is non-partisan it is still politically active, Gooch pointed out. He mentioned the group’s national voter registration drive and its support of specific political issues, such as the organization’s endorsement of the referendum to raise Ohio’s minimum wage in the upcoming elections.
Gooch encouraged students to join the Oberlin City chapter even if they did not decide to form a group on campus and invited them to the local chapter’s meeting on Tuesday at seven in the evening in the public library. In turn, Patterson invited Gooch to make contact with more students on campus during the upcoming black alumni reunion and a meeting of black student organizations at the end of October.