NAACP promotes local involvement, political awareness

By Dan Doren

DeKALB — Students received information about the importance of elections and the qualities of a good candidate 7 p.m. Tuesday during the Democratic debate watch party, hosted by NIU’s chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the Center for Black Studies.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the United States. NIU’s chapter was started in 1990, according to an August 1990, Northern Star article.

Before attendees tuned in to the fourth Democratic primary debate, which began at 7 p.m. on CNN, NIU Chapter President of the NAACP Nikitha Ballari presented a slideshow on raising political awareness.

One of the slides focused on state and local elections, providing examples of the areas in which these levels of government affect daily lives.

These areas included school quality, rental costs, public transport and public safety.

“[Local politics] is really important,” Ballari said. “Especially with what has been going on recently, as far as how we feel about the police officers and how they’ve been treating members of the community. And the police officers are public servants; their paychecks are our taxes.”

Shantez Branch, vice president of programming for NIU’s chapter of the NAACP, discussed how black men and women weren’t granted the right to vote until 1870 and 1920 respectively, and how, despite this, they were deterred from voting through fear.

“This hits home, especially for me,” Branch said. “It’s my right to vote.”

The last slide focused on how to choose the right candidate, advising attendees to pay attention to which issues the candidates would focus on and how candidates’ views line up with their own.

“You need to be looking at the policies that these people are supporting,” Ballari said. “Because, for example, [Democratic candidate] Kamala Harris, she makes the claim that you know she supports people of color and she’s trying to help you out. But she is the one that’s locked up the most amount of black people all the time that she’s been serving as a prosecutor.”

There were moments during the debate that drew some positive reactions from attendees, including when candidate Andrew Yang fired back at Sen. Elizabeth Warren for downplaying the role of automation in U.S. job loss.

“Driving a truck is the most common job in 29 states,” Yang said during the debate. “And my friends in California are piloting self-driving trucks. What is that going to mean for the 3.5 million truckers or the 7 million Americans who work in truck stops, motels and diners that rely upon the truckers getting out and having a meal?”

Devlin Collins, sophomore political science major, said he thought the clashes between Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Warren were an entertaining element of the debate.

“I think those two are rivals,” he said. “It’s pretty clear that they’re not fond of each other.”

Klobuchar at one point responded to Warren’s charge that everyone on stage, except for her and Sen. Bernie Sanders, had their priorities set on protecting the billionaire class.

“I want to give a reality check here to [Warren],” Klobuchar said. “Because no one on this stage wants to protect billionaires. Not even the billionaire [Tom Steyer] wants to protect billionaires.”

NIU’s NAACP will attend the Rededication of the Dr. Martin Luther King Bust 4 p.m. in the MLK Commons. The chapter can be contacted at