OC NAACP Initiatives Reach Kids, Youth
By Dianne Anderson
If it’s hard for Black and Brown adults to deal with the increased scourge of racist hate, odds are that it’s brutal for the kids.
Kids can be cruel, and being Black in OC is not without its challenges.
Dr. Ricardo Parker said his work with young Black students has been intensely concentrated on giving students the support system they need, that they can’t find at schools where they may be the only one in their class, or at their grade level.
In his work with students in Cyprus and Garden Grove school districts, their six-week session is winding down from the first cohort, which he said has been a success. His main interest has been getting to know and appreciate the students, and guiding them to rise above the challenges they face at school.
“They don’t see themselves, a lot of kids are not African American. They get to develop some level of self-esteem, and at the same time, a sense of who they are in the program. Being young kids, they have to be able to identify with not only their Blackness, but that they have a support system in place,” he said.
Black Youth RISING (Resilience, Inspiration, Significance, Invaluable, Noteworthy and Gifted) is a recent project of the local branch NAACP, which received funding from the Orange County Community Foundation African American Alliance Fund.
Dr. Parker, a cancer research scientist and a professor, said the program is held virtually with a set of weekly activities for third and fourth-grade African American children. They explore what each letter of the RISING acronym means to build self-worth and keep them through their academic journey.
“We define the terms for RISING, and always talk with them and see where or when that term is demonstrated by them or they see it in action. The point is that they can connect with these terms and understand the concepts and how to apply them to strengthen their resolve if they are having challenges,” he said.
Next fall, another group of students is starting at the Cyprus school district. The program requires an adult or guardian present, and at the end of the six-week session, mentors, students and families will have a face-to-face ceremony and celebration.
He is looking to expand, and said they are brainstorming on ways to continue fundraising into the future to help more students.
Also coming up, the local branch is in partnership with Amazon’s Black Employee Network, Irvine Chapter, in a program to introduce Gen Z to technology with one on one mentorship. The four-week professional development Cohort Summer Program runs from July 10 through August 4 to explore career opportunities in the world of technology. Registration closes for that program on July 7.
Youth Council Chair, Justice Crudup, is working with the NAACP Orange County branch in a separate program for ages 16 to 27, especially focused on environmental initiatives.
Lately, he said there is more attention to the disproportionate impact of environmental issues on Black and Brown families, and Branch President Deirdre Harris and others on the board wanted it as their first policy initiative to tackle.
He is excited to energize the youth to take charge on the issues. So far, they have participated in two beach cleanups with the goal to get their youth program activated.
“Our NAACP youth council has decided to take on environmental climate change as their first action,” he said. “That was a great event. We wanted the beach cleanups to let youth know the NAACP Youth Council is active when it comes to educating the community about climate change.”
This past month, they posted a beach cleanup with students at Cal State Fullerton campus, Chapman Black Student Union, and Students for Quality Education, a BIPOC organization. It brought out a host of young activists ready to roll up their sleeves on something that most students can relate to.
But for him, the starting point of awareness is giving youth an opportunity to know themselves, to learn where they come from, as well as where they’re going. That approach has been an important part of his own personal growth.
As he started to understand his identity, he said it renewed his sense of purpose in educating others.
“For me, I recognized the trajectory in social change when I started to understand my indigenous roots and understand my ancestry, I know that my [exponentially] great grandfather was a Moor,” he said.
At the national level, he said the NAACP is addressing multiple initiatives. Throughout 2021, they challenged President Biden to halt student payments and cancel student debt completely.
“It’s going to be a huge undertaking not only for Black and Brown students, but also white students,” he said.
Students are expected to be hit hard in the next few months as they brace for next September when their loan payments, with interest, restart.
“That’s the second initiative that NAACP OC is looking to tackle when the fall semester starts in the next two months, something that we’re going to be collaborating with different BIPOC groups,” he said. “They’re going to participate in a back-to-school rally in August, and we’re connecting the youth groups with other educational opportunities.”
For more information on how to get involved, see https://www.naacpoc.org/
For more information on Gen Z Technology mentoring, see