OC NAACP Moves Ahead on Justice Goals
By Dianne Anderson
A little nudge sometimes can have a big impact.
When Dr. Fred Calhoun came on as Orange County NAACP branch president last February, one of his top goals was going after the thing he knew best — the educational system.
Soon after taking his seat, he began sending notices to community colleges and universities about his concerns that there are not enough Black teachers on campus. They responded.
At one point, he planned to march on Cypress College, but called it off. They had hired five new Black professors.
Today, he continues to meet with education leaders across Orange County, expecting more positive hires in the future.
Calhoun, who had worked in the community college system for many years, said getting Black teachers hired is a priority under his leadership. He is also excited that Dr. John Weispfenning, Chancellor, Coast Community College District, is a guest speaker at their upcoming January meeting.
He hopes the chancellor will address the lack of diversity in county schools, and talk about what, if any, progress is being made.
Coming up on the new year, the branch is looking to bring basic computer programming and classes for younger children, which could open doors for STEM in their future. One of the branch volunteers is a coder.
NAACP meetings are held the second Saturday of every month from 12:30-2:30 p.m. at Second Baptist Church, located at 4300 Westminster Avenue in Santa Ana.
“We have standing room only,” he said. “It’s working out beautifully. More and more people are coming in as they learn more about us.”
During the holidays, the chapter will be dormant, but picks up speed with a great lineup of activities through the year.
Since taking office, he said their branch has grown significantly as an organization with about a 60% increase in membership.
They are also working with the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association, which has been coming out once a month at 11:30 a.m., giving presentations for an hour before the NAACP meeting.
Anyone with a legal question or concerns, such as business management or end of life situations are encouraged to come out, and join the conversation.
For 2020, the branch will be strong on voter registration, outreach and events. He’s also excited about their committee on Crime, Punishment and Redemption.
Recently, he met with a UCI expert, and there may be a forthcoming project to help get more academic opportunities for prisoners to better adapt once they’re released.
“I’m very interested in educational programs going in the prisons,” he said. “The lady from UCI is the foremost authority on the prison system, especially solitary confinement.”
The new branch Crime, Punishment, and Redemption Committee, initiated by Calhoun, is taking shape under committee chair, David Drakeford, also a member of the law enforcement community.
Orange County prison rights advocate and a member of All of Us or None, Frank Mitchell III, has spent countless hours sitting in on court cases and monitoring trials. At times, he advocates for Black men caught up in the system.
For him, getting involved in this aspect of advocacy takes a lot of time. Sometimes, he goes out to speak at NAACP branches to talk about his experience of fighting race-based systemic injustice.
“I’ve been deeply involved with trying to get innocent black people, almost all of them women, freed from prison,” said Mitchell, an NAACP member.
But, he said he is concerned that the system is heavily weighted, and stopping justice from moving forward.
He said he’s come across cases inside the Board of Paroles and Hearings, that unfairly selects Black people, usually women, whose appeals and applications for pardons and commutations are being altered or destroyed before it has a chance to be reviewed.
“The Governor of California, no matter who he is, never reads any of the applications, or new evidence documentation that is rarely given to him. He gives it to his Legal Affairs department, and ‘trusts’ them to make the final conclusion,” he said.
For more information, see www.naacp-oc.org