Op-Ed: “Getting in Good Trouble”

NAACP Greater Trenton Branch Executive Board

In this new year, we celebrate our accomplishments of the past year and look toward the days ahead.

The Trenton Branch NAACP has the unique opportunity to represent not just the Capital City of New Jersey, but also the surrounding nine municipalities, which make up the greater Mercer County area. We serve on the front lines of many social justice movements with priorities focused on protecting our women and girls and fighting inequalities across all sectors.

The incidents in Caldwell where a young girl experimenting with a homemade spray she used to rid lanternflies was racially profiled by a neighbor; in Central Jersey where four mosques were visited by a truck displaying anti-Muslim messages; and in Millville, where Latinos were discriminated against by the court system clearly shows racial tensions and disparities still exist in our communities. Our fight for justice and equality continues in 2023 and we move forward by working together with community partners.

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Toward this effort, NAACP Trenton forged new partnerships this past year, including the collaboration with Foundation Academies, the Fatherhood Center of New Jersey, and most recently Children’s Futures. Children’s Futures’ impactful work in our communities supports the growth of healthy children and families across the State. They work hard in Mercer County to positively impact infant mortality in underserved communities.

Our partnership with this organization is a testament to the importance of working together with community-based organizations to bridge resources and make our efforts stronger. Improving life outcomes among people of color requires research and resources. Nationally, the NAACP has a new 7-point advocacy model, which places equity at the center of education, leadership, collaboration, communication, and the disruption of systems. Locally, we are referencing this 7-point model, combining resources, educating, and empowering people to increase economic and social mobility while accelerating change and making a lasting impact.

An example of this empowerment is the work of our Women in the NAACP (WIN) Committee. Their work to lift the voices of Black women and children shines a much-deserved light on the adversity black women face today. It is a true example of how effective advocacy must align with building relationships within our greater Mercer County area community. Dispelling the notion that black women are targets for social and economic injustices as we have seen in recent years— notably with the tragic death of Briana Taylor, the discrimination against nine-year-old Bobbi in Caldwell, and the black female student arrested while in class at an HBCU of Winston-Salem University— must be a priority moving forward.

Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” We need to move forward in lockstep together as a community to support the needs of all families. The pathway to social, economic, and racial equity is one lined with the collective efforts of federal, state, and local or community–based entities.

NAACP Trenton set its sights on several critical issues worthy of advocacy efforts this last year. Encouraging civic participation with grassroots efforts in the community to register more voters remains at the core of NAACP outreach activities. Books and Ballots, which aims to resume annually, registered Mercer County residents to vote, educated the community on the process, tracking and analyzing outcomes, while encouraging literacy.

We began advocating for the full implementation of the Amistad Law with significant progress over the year.  However, we are still far from the full realization of the curriculum being used in every school classroom. Identifying and promoting local educators who have exhibited best practices is the next best step to encourage more teachers to educate students on Black History.

As environmental and climate justice is a civil rights issue, we’ve kept an eye on troubled water facilities, and the rise in the lead and other toxins in drinking water plaguing many cities throughout the state. We’ve also collaborated with environmental organizations to educate youth and families about the importance of land conservation, land stewardship, and using the land to grow healthy foods. 

These topics are only a few of the issues NAACP Trenton has worked on with the surrounding community. There are more issues we will begin to tackle in the coming year. Empowering Mercer is our steadfast mission. We look forward to working with area non-profits, our local leaders, and residents to provide support to communities on issues that need a voice.

Together, we can realize the vision of a society in which every person is respected, has access to necessary resources, has an opportunity for upward mobility and, most importantly, has equal rights without discrimination based on race. In 2023, let’s continue to get into good trouble, necessary trouble for our communities.

Leslie Summiel is the current President of the Trenton Branch NAACP Unit #2108-B.

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