The Portland State University NAACP hosts "Black America: State of Emergency," Saturday, May 24 at Cramer Hall.
The one-day series of seminars includes 16 workshops presented by educators and activists such as Charles McGee of the Black Parent Initiative, Kayse Jama of the Center for Intercultural Organizing, and PSU Urban Studies Professor Karen Gibson.
The events are free and lunch is provided. Organizers want to make it an annual event.
"We want to make it a tradition with the NAACP group," says PSU NAACP President Sheila Pete. "We want to make sure we give an education to all the students of color."
Keynote speaker is past Portland NAACP President Skip Osborne. Workshop topics include Contemporary Issues Between Africans and African Americans; How the Past Affects Our Present; The Condition of the Black Student; Stress and Health Wellness; and Portland's Black History.
The Portland chapter of the NAACP has an illustrious history of activism, even as it is plagued by the fact that its own members are constantly graduating and moving on to careers.
In 2001, the group organized a racial profiling forum that drew more than a hundred participants. Focusing on the case of a 68-year-old Christian minister who was dragged from her car and arrested during a traffic stop in Northeast Portland, the event culminated in a march to Portland City Hall and a student demonstration that all but shut down the council meeting.
Pete says the student NAACP was revived last school year, starting from scratch.
"We were in danger of losing our office and our funding – we were in danger of losing the NAACP on campus," Pete says.
She decided to step up to the plate and take a key role in rebuilding the group. Since then, they've sent students to two state and regional conferences, and attracted dynamic new members including Erica Lee Johnson, elected vice president in January.
"She has definitely been a firecracker – she came in with some really big ideas," Pete says. "This new annual event came about because of her."
The students held a similar event a few months ago featuring Sen. Avel Gordly and political candidate John Branam. It was so successful they decided to do it again, bigger.
"We are a group that has truly struggled but we're here to stay," Pete says. "We are students with midterms and finals and day jobs, but the NAACP is our passion."
The students are also currently working to establish a diversity requirement for PSU graduates. The group has met with faculty and is moving an official proposal through the Academic Requirements Committee mandating four credits of academic coursework from an approved list in the area of ethnic studies.
"PSU always toots its horn as being one of the most diverse schools in the region," Pete says. "But without a requirement that people confront their stereotypes, then they're not really walking the walk."
For more information about PSU's NAACP, call 503-943-9815 or visit http://naacp.groups.pdx.edu/.