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B-N NAACP Gives Youth A Voice In New Council

The Bloomington-Normal NAACP has started a new youth council that includes 38 members.
The Bloomington-Normal NAACP has started a new youth council that includes 38 members.

For the first time in Bloomington-Normal NAACP's 103-year history, young people will have a voice.

The NAACP has created a new youth council in hopes of fostering a new generation of leaders for racial and social justice.

Bloomington-Normal NAACP president Linda Foster said the youth council's formation comes at a perfect time during this racially-charged climate.

“It makes them participate in the ongoing civil rights efforts to be prepared for the next level, so it's not a beginning when they get older, it's a continuation of what they’ve already learned,” Foster said.

Chapter vice president Carla Campbell-Jackson said the organization wants to focus on youth - not just its future - but part of its present.

“Young people bring vibrancy and a unique perspective, so as we continue to fight for racial and social justice we need the young people to come in so we can gracefully pass the baton,” Campbell-Jackson said.

The youth council's first president is Bradley Ross Jackson. He is Carla Campbell-Jackson's son. He's also an honor student at Normal Community High School. He will soon begin his sophomore year.

Bradley said joining the youth council was a good way to further his passion for justice. He said everyone should be treated with dignity, respect and inclusion.

Bradley Ross Jackson was named the Bloomington-Normal NAACP's first youth council president.
Bradley Ross Jackson was named the Bloomington-Normal NAACP's first youth council president.

Bradley said he has admired the NAACP work from the outside. Now that he's able to take part, he encourages others to get involved too.

“They can feel positive and have great relationship and leadership skills because they’ll be able to interact with the community and have a heart for the disenfranchised,” Ross Jackson said.

The NAACP requires a minimum 25 students to set up a youth council. Carla Campbell-Jackson said the Bloomington-Normal chapter easily surpassed that, getting 38 to join.

“Right after Bradley was elected they set up a GroupMe, Twitter, and all of that within the first 13 hours. So they certainly bring the fresh perspective we need to maintain our platform for racial and social justice,” she said.

Campbell-Jackson said young people have an advantage in their ability to embrace technology. She said they will use it to spread their message in the movement for justice.

“I remember we were talking to the technology chair and the conversation came up about a Facebook page and they said, ‘Oh no we don’t do Facebook. That’s for our parents! We do Instagram and group chimes,'" Campbell-Jackson said. “So it's a new generation and we have to acknowledge and applaud that because that will keep us moving in the future.”

Bradley Ross Jackson said he wants to bring more than a grasp of modern technology to the NAACP to connect with more young people, but he’s making sure the youth council doesn't lose sight of traditional relationship-building through an acronym he made with his mom.

“The main goal is using our C.A.R. It stands for communications and relationships,” he said. “We need to have communication skills so we can relate to the community and gain more members.”

Ross Jackson said the group has already started meeting and planning events for the fall. It plans a school supply drive and a Thanksgiving collection for Bloomington Housing Authority residents. The youth council also plans to host an anti-bullying town hall meeting when school starts in the fall.

The NAACP encourages local youth to get involved in civil rights regardless of what other organizations they decide to join. Campbell-Jackson said the NAACP views collaboration using the belt and suspenders approach.

“Not one or the other but we can work together,” she said. “You can have the belt on and the suspenders. At the end of the day we're all advocating for the same issues. There is no competition because each group brings its own set of skills that we can work cohesively to make a difference in this community.

Bloomington-Normal NAACP president Linda Foster said the youth council helps fill a void in the local chapter, a clear succession plan for the future. For these more than three-dozen young people about to take up the cause of racial justice, the future is now.

The Bloomington-Normal NAACP plans to formally install the youth council at a ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 7, at the McLean County Museum of History.

Tiffani Jackson is a reporting intern at WGLT and a student at Illinois State University's School of Communication. She started working at WGLT in summer 2019.