Kufi hats, Cross Colors, and the NAACP

I was thrilled to become a NAACP member. I was about 12 or 13 and at a very complex time in my life. I was no longer being educated at a magnet school as I had become accustomed to and had to attend school in my inner city neighborhood in Houston, TX. I was very frustrated and disappointed with my school, my education, my classmates, and my teachers -- and to add to that, the Rodney King situation.

I was angry with my people for the negativity and foolishness that was engulfing my community. I was angry about the rioting, the looting, and the racism and bigotry in general, but mostly because I wanted to do something, but didn't know exactly what to do. I felt powerless over my situation as well as what was taking place in the world. I was learning more and more about  slavery, apartheid, and where Black people stood in the whole scheme of things.

In Missouri City, TX, one of my older sisters was working with others chartering a NAACP youth council. After she attended the National conference in Los Angeles, the rest was history! When she came back to Texas telling our family about ACT-SO, Mr. & Miss NAACP, Benjamin Hooks, and all the wonderful experiences that she had, I was hooked. I couldn't wait!

I became active with the youth council as treasurer and fundraiser chairperson. I was Miss NAACP TX one year and competed in the art division in ACT-SO. The NAACP gave me something positive to look forward to at a time when everything seemed very bleak and negative. I had the  privilege of meeting many celebrities and politicians, but I must say, meeting Dr. Hooks and Mrs. Rosa Parks in Nashville was the most memorable. I was in such awe, that I don't think I even said anything to Mrs. Parks. I just shook her hand and stared at her. She was so beautiful, I'm getting chills just thinking about it.

Some of my most fond memories are traveling throughout the U.S. with other teens to attend different conferences and meetings. Kente cloth Kufi hats, Cross Colors, Digital Underground in the tape deck, and the NAACP! It was the 90's -- what more did we need!?

I have been blessed to be a member for at least 20 years with either the Houston Branch or Missouri City Branch or youth councils, and I was even a member of my college chapter at Texas Southern University. Since starting a family, I have not participated as much as I would have liked to, but I look forward to the national conference next month so that my son and I can become active together. I can't wait until the day my son comes home with his exciting NAACP stories and experiences, just as I did.

Thank you, NAACP, for helping to shape my personality and for keeping me active when I would have otherwise been idle. You stepped in and filled the education gap, the information gap, and socialization gap. Where my community and school were lacking, you filled the void and kept me encouraged as I worked through the contrast of two extremely opposing images of Black people.

Join Celeste, and the rest of the NAACP family -- become an NAACP member today.