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Castleton University becomes first Vt. college with NAACP chapter

Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 12:15 AM EDT
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CASTLETON, Vt. (WCAX) - Castleton University has officially become the first Vermont college to start its own NAACP chapter.

The Rutland-area NAACP says Castleton’s student chapter got its official recognition from the national NAACP earlier this month. The three founding members-- Nadia Cox, Ray Awusi, and Tajae Edwards-- say they hope the Castleton NAACP will attract more students of color to the university, as well as create a safe space for all students regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression, or religion, and to share their personal stories and express their concerns about issues affecting them.

“We’re having people from different places and ethnicities and religions coming up to Vermont and we need that here at Castleton as well,” said Nadia Cox, the vice president of the organization. “And we can just form a unity and just understand each other’s differences.”

Cox, Awusi, and Edwards say they created this organization in response to a racist email that was sent to the student body after the school decided to raise the Black Lives Matter flag on campus last fall. They also say there have been incidents in the classrooms that have made Black students feel uncomfortable. “The class is going over a certain book or certain topic and certain slurs in there,” said Awusi, a recent graduate who helped jumpstart the student chapter last semester. “White students believing they can say this term because they’re in class and they’re discussing this, and continuously repeating the word.”

They say the Castleton NAACP chapter is a moment and a movement for people of all backgrounds to challenge their own biases, have difficult conversations, and learn about other students’ lived experiences. “We watched videos and held discussions about those videos and you could tell some members were a bit uncomfortable, and it was okay,” Awusi said. “It’s okay to be uncomfortable but it’s not okay to ignore something because you’re uncomfortable about it.”

The founders want the organization to provide a space for all students to talk about issues affecting them both on and off-campus. “We help people of all colors. You don’t have to be Black to be helped by the NAACP. So, I just want to change that narrative,” Awusi said.

“Knowing that there’s someone there to be their backbone or something they can go to like a club or a community of people that you can communicate with on matters that might affect them silently or secretly,” said Edwards, the president of the Castleton NAACP.

“I’m really excited to see our youth step up and start this chapter. In a college campus like Castleton, to get that many people to want to be part of this organization that is 112 years old and rich and steep in history -- it’s really exciting and promising,” said Mia Schultz, president of the Rutland-area NAACP.

The Castleton NAACP currently has 33 members. They say their goal is to have 50 members by the start of the next school year.

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