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Stand Up, Speak Out

Ask a typical suburban teenage boy if he’s ever been racially profiled and chances are good he won’t have a clue what you’re talking about. But ask an inner-city kid, say from San Jose’s east side, and, unfortunately, the answer will most likely be “yes.”

“They [inner-city youth] are sensitive to their interaction with law enforcement,” says Rick Callender (Industrial Technology, 1994), president of the San Jose/Silicon Valley branch of the NAACP. “Some of them have been confronted by the police, with no basis, even at their young age.”

An important part of Callender’s two-year term is to reach out to the community’s youth and teach them how to change their world. Last October, the San Jose/Silicon Valley branch held a Youth Leadership Academy for 50 7th- through 12th-grade students. The academy teaches practical skills youth need to become productive adults and community leaders, explains Callender. He taught a session on the importance of the civil rights movement in the new millennium and how youth can make an impact. “I tell them you can build hope by setting a positive example and involving yourself to ensure change,” says Callender.

Callender put that philosophy into action in the early 1990s when he served as CSU, Chico’s student body president, the first African American to hold that post, as well as the first student elected twice. Callender says he is particularly proud of his successful efforts to convince the university to reinvest funds into those corporations that did not support apartheid.

When Callender took office at the NAACP in January 2001, he felt that the branch had lost its voice in the community. In April, Callender made headlines when he criticized San Jose police for racial profiling, based on personal experience and complaints that he says the NAACP has heard for years. Callender persuaded the San Jose Police Department to co-sponsor, with the NAACP, legislation to encourage additional funding for training on how to interact with people of different ethnicities.

Callender promised to revitalize the branch; last year membership more than doubled. “The NAACP is now in a position to have a much larger voice on all public policy issues,” he says.

Callender has always “been willing to be out there, to stand up,” according to his mother, Norma Callender. He credits his parents with setting an example of social activism. “My parents stressed the importance of the need to get involved in making the world a better place for everyone,” he says. “They’ve had a strong influence on me in regard to public service, education, and faith in God.” Callender says he plans to instill those same values in his own son, Jordan, who is 5 years old.

Lisa Kirk, Public Affairs and Publications

 

   
  Chico Statements is published by the Office of Public Affairs and Publications twice a year for alums, parents, faculty, staff, and friends of California State University, Chico.
   

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