Yuma chapter of NAACP marks 80 years
The Yuma NAACP Chapter #1016 will celebrate its 80 years of service to the community during the Building Bridges and Creating Opportunities Banquet Wednesday evening. Wednesday was specifically chosen for the celebration since it will be 12-12-12.
The banquet will be held at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center, 300 South 13th Avenue.
The doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and the dinner will be served at 7 p.m. The meal, prepared by Chef Clyde Gill, will include tri-tip, potatoes with pearl onions, a vegetable medley and dinner rolls.
The Yuma High School Jazz Band will provide entertainment throughout the event.
Tickets for the event are $50 each. For tickets, call 246-2111 or 341-9742.
Much has changed in the 80 years since the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Chapter #1016 was founded in Yuma. Children are no longer segregated in schools and African Americans can freely eat at any restaurant they choose.
“I am privileged to give thanks and pay tribute to a few forward thinking individuals who recognized, as early as 1932, there was a need for change in the Yuma community,” said John “Bud” Johnson, President of Chapter #1016.
“Their care and concern for the living conditions, especially among Yuma blacks, needed to be addressed. Undoubtedly there were many racial concerns and numerous issues that needed to be addressed, not only here in Yuma, but nationwide. I am confident the Yuma NAACP #1016 played a significant and major role in bringing about a peaceful solution to many of the concerns of that time.”
When the chapter was founded, African American students attending Yuma High School were segregated to the basement, and their families could not eat inside of established restaurants owned by Caucasians or Hispanics, Johnson said.
“Black folks in Yuma were not granted the privilege of dining in Yuma's prestigious cafes and restaurants, although take-outs could be ordered from the back door of the white and Hispanic owned establishments. The irony is, in many cases, blacks were the chefs, cooks and kitchen helpers at the same location they could not enjoy a simple meal.”
Unfortunately, the identities of the members who founded the Yuma chapter in 1932 are for now lost to history.
“It's been really difficult to ascertain who the original members and officers of the NAACP were,” Johnson said. “Many of the original NAACP members are no longer with us.”
According to the NAACP, their principal objective is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority groups in the United States, and to eliminate racial prejudice.
That includes not just African Americans, but all minorities, Johnson said, noting the Yuma branch has traditionally welcomed all races into its ranks.
“If you stop and think, it's leading by example. If we are going to ask other people to recognize the things we are saying, then we have to recognize what other people are saying and doing. I think it is a two-way street.”
Johnson is “very proud” the Yuma chapter is still actively working for the equal rights of all. But there is still work to be done, he added.
“Things are better in some areas, but in some things, they still need to be changed.”
While “blatant outright discrimination” is no longer as common as it once was, prejudices remain, he said.
“It still happens. We still have the same kind of job problems and some of the same issues. Sometimes I find myself dealing with the same situations, and I say, ‘My goodness!' I'm just getting tired of it. But then you go along and then you have something positive happen.”
In the future, the Yuma Chapter will concentrate more on helping young people succeed, Johnson said.
“The local NAACP has committed to the youth of this community. In addition to reestablishing our high school scholarship program, we will focus on getting a youth and/or college chapter initiated under the auspices of NAACP Chapter #1016.”
Towards that end, the chapter has adopted the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) program. The yearlong achievement program was designed to recruit, stimulate, and encourage high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students. ACT-SO includes 26 categories of competition in the sciences, humanities, business, and performing and visual arts.
“I think that is what we are going to dedicate the next two years to,” Johnson said.
It is unknown what NAACP Chapter #1016 will look like in another 80 years, but Johnson said the work done by the organization today will shape the future.
“I imagine it will look a lot different than it does now. The world will change. That will depend on what kind of work we do. It depends on how much work we are willing to put forth.”
The Yuma chapter currently has about 75 members and always welcomes new members. For more information about how to become a member, call 581-7954.