Lawrence students revive local NAACP Youth Council

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Wendo Kimori believes in walking the talk when it comes to equity work, so she’s doing just that.

Lawrence had an NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Youth Council more than 30 years ago, but the group eventually fizzled out and remained inactive. Kimori, a Free State High School senior, this year decided to lead the council’s revival. She said her driving force was a “need for action.”

“I’m on a lot of different committees and boards and councils where we do a lot of discussing and data-reading, and there’s absolutely the place for that,” Kimori explained. 

“However, I really wanted to be able to test my ability to put these different things into practice and encourage people to do more than just talk. Especially with equity-related issues, like racial equity, I think that we’ve done a lot of talking and I just wanted to see more action. I wanted there to be a place where students and just youth could come with their ideas, and we can be focused on implementing them and making them happen. Honestly, wherever and whoever wants our help or accepts our projects, I’m willing to work with whoever.”

Membership of the youth council is tailored toward high school and college students with the cutoff age being 25, Kimori said. Leading up to its launch in January, the youth council held recruitment events in both district high schools and during community events to spread the word about their mission: “To create a unified group of young, determined individuals who strive to make change for futures and futures to come,” according to a post on the group’s Instagram page.

NAACP Youth Council members from left to right are Wendo Kimori, Elsie Murrugarra, Caitlin Sand and Thayu Kimori.(Contributed photo)

As president of the council, Kimori said not only does she want to pound the pavement, but she generally wants to encourage young people to be knowledgeable and outspoken about school district decisions and community news. With the district’s ongoing budget crisis, Kimori said she feels some decisions, such as the board-approved switch to iPads next year for high schoolers, leave students feeling powerless.

“I think that if people remained more consistently engaged or  kept up with them then they wouldn’t feel so blindsided,” Kimori said. “We’re just trying to get people to stay informed and stay engaged, especially with what happens with those decisions. I think that there’s always been that notion of, ‘Kids, we can’t vote,’ so we just have to roll with the punches in that sense, but I think that it’s a new power – education is power. Even just knowing about that stuff and staying informed, you’re already ahead of the game, and it’s extremely beneficial.”

Kimori had been a member of the Lawrence Chapter NAACP for a few years before taking on the youth council, and she felt there needed to be more student involvement with the chapter.

President of the Lawrence Chapter NAACP Ursula Minor couldn’t have agreed more.

Ursula Minor

“We have tried to start a youth branch in the past but just couldn’t get it going, so when Wendo stepped up and said that she would be a leader and get it going, we were really excited about that,” Minor said. 

“We need a youth council because sooner or later we’re going to get old. I know it’s gonna happen at some point in my life. But to have youth to be able to get in there and learn what we already know — there’s so much opportunity for them and to be able to, just for instance, learn how to register people to vote [and] learn more about civil rights [and] more things they can do in the community.”

As the Lawrence NAACP Chapter continues to partner with and provide support to the youth council, Minor also said there will be chances for youth council students to earn scholarships and participate in civil rights training.

Minor said she is excited to introduce the youth council to the Lawrence City Commission during its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7, where Kimori will join her to read a Black History Month proclamation.

Lawrence NAACP Youth Council members meet with Lawrence NAACP Chapter members during their officer installation ceremony on Jan. 29, 2023. (Contributed photo)

The youth council’s first project included members traveling to Lawrence elementary schools during Martin Luther King Jr. week to read to students, and they hope to do the same during Black History Month, Kimori said. More upcoming projects in the works will center community engagement and advocacy, one being in support of community members experiencing homelessness.

“We are planning an event that has to do with doing something to change the view on houselessness here in Lawrence,” Kimori said. 

“We have our date set for Feb. 18 to do a project where we’re, hopefully, collaborating with other organizations in Lawrence to combat homelessness and have a day where we feed people and also learn their stories and what they need. We discussed amongst ourselves [that] we wish to see more relationships with not just the powers that be and people who are affected by homelessness but just an overall understanding.”

The Lawrence NAACP Youth Council had its first official meeting on Jan. 21 and will continue to hold meetings once a month. Young people interested in joining as members can fill out the contact form at this link or email for more information. Stay up to date with the council’s work by following its Instagram page.

Wendo Kimori speaks to elementary students during a visit to schools. (Contributed photo)
Lawrence NAACP Youth Council members meet with Lawrence NAACP Chapter members during their officer installation ceremony on Jan. 29, 2023. (Contributed photo)
Wendo Kimori interacts with elementary students during a visit to schools. (Contributed photo)
Wendo Kimori, right, meets with elementary staff during the Lawrence NAACP Youth Council’s visit to read to students. (Contributed photo)
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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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