Kevin P. Chavous, a former Washington, D.C., councilman and board chairman of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, reflects on the NAACP’s fight against school closures and charter school expansions in New York City, in light of a Harlem rally of parents urging the civil rights group to drop its opposition. Writing in The Washington Post, Chavous asks how we got to the point “that the country’s foremost civil rights organization is the target of a protest by the people it was created to serve?”
Elegantly, Chavous adds:
As an African American growing up in the ’60s, I revered the NAACP. I will never forget when my mother took me to a NAACP-League of Women Voters rally at Butler University in Indianapolis, my hometown. My mother was active in both groups, which, at that time, were protesting the presence of Alabama Gov. George Wallace on Butler’s campus. Wallace was an avowed segregationist who famously stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama to block the entrance of its first black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood. Only 7 at the time, I distinctly remember carrying a sign that I pointed in Wallace’s face. I don’t recall what the sign said, but I knew he didn’t want boys like me to get an education. As the police pushed me aside, my mother and her fellow protesters praised me for marching like a man for equal rights. Later, when my parents sat me down to give me my own NAACP membership card, I was proud beyond words.
I reflected on that time when I saw a photo of young black students at the Harlem march against the NAACP. I could see myself in one of those photos — a boy standing with his mom, holding a sign and making a statement in support of his future. I couldn’t help but see the irony: me marching with the NAACP against Wallace, and today’s children marching against the NAACP. It just shows that black parents will fight for the progress and quality education that their kids deserve — no matter who is standing in the way.