NAACP Evanston Branch prioritizes health and youth opportunities at town hall


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. NAACP leadership spoke Wednesday night at a town hall about their plans to work with Black Evanston youth and promote physical and mental health.

Avani Kalra, Assistant City Editor

Evanston/Northshore NAACP provided residents with an update on the last year of initiatives and shared committee updates at a virtual town hall Wednesday. 

Third Vice President Sharon Weeks said the NAACP is particularly focused on health and wellness this year, a pivot inspired by the pandemic. 

“The pandemic made it a priority,” Weeks said. “At the time of the pandemic, we did not have a functioning health and well-being committee. We’re so happy someone stepped in.” 

Branch President Michael C. R. Nabors said the group worked with several African American congregations to establish vaccination sites at their places of worship last spring. 

Weeks said students from all over the community were also involved in the branch’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout. She said high-school-aged members of her committee drove community members to receive their vaccines and boosters.

“We’ve got some young high school people who are community organizers, and they are really our boots on the ground,” Weeks said. “They’re frontline, trying to do some of the things that kids can do to help out.” 

Rev. Kalif Crutcher, speaking for the branch’s Religious Affairs Committee, said the NAACP Evanston’s  work on health and wellness should expand beyond the immediate needs of COVID-19. In addition to partnering with local organizations to open up the conversation about Alzheimer’s, the committee worked with Lake County’s African American Community Partnership Group to host conversations about mental health. 

“The mental health of Black and brown folks is critically important,” Crutcher said. “Mental health in the Black community is far less taboo than it once was. Moving into the new year, we want to capitalize on this opportunity to have a seminar on the importance of your mental health.” 

Education Committee Chair Terri Shepard said the NAACP’s Evanston branch is looking to expand its commitment to North Shore youth this year. 

The branch hopes to expand its “Next Generation Leadership” program, which works to support young people in becoming “strong agents for social change” and houses opportunities like leadership development program “NextGen” and achievement program “Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics.”  

Last year, Shepard said the branch worked to fund several scholarships, hosted readathons, petitioned to cancel student loans and worked in tandem with Evanston Cradle to Career, a partnership of local organizations that seek to improve the lives of children and families. 

“We need to address systemic racism and poverty as tangible barriers to learning and future achievement,” she said. “Every student deserves access to great teaching, equitable resources, and a safe learning environment. Black students matter, and working on their behalf has never been more important.” 

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