Zephanii Smith CM ’12 was named to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) National Board of Directors in February, becoming one of seven youth members from across the country to receive the honor.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to serve the [NAACP] in this capacity while being a student at the 5Cs,” Smith said. “It’s a blend of learning and life experience.”
The NAACP reserves seven seats on its Board of Directors for youth representatives, each of whom represents one of seven different regions across the country.
“As a board member, my duties are to attend regular meetings that occur at least four times a year in various parts of the country and to serve as an active voice for our region,” Smith said. “We have full power and authority to shape the association’s internal and external policies.”
Smith, who hails from Stockton, Cal. and is pursuing a B.A. in government, was nominated for the position at the NAACP’s historic 100th National Convention in New York last July. She was elected by local units in Region I, which covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. She was sworn in at the end of February along with Roslyn Brock, who became the new Chairman of the NAACP.
Prior to her election to the board, Smith served on the NAACP’s National Youth Works Committee, which consists of two youth members from each of the seven regions. The committee develops national programs for youth and college students.
“During my term we launched campaigns against poor images in the media under the STOP! Campaign, increased awareness about the situation in Darfur through Save Darfur, fought for more education resources under the NAACP’s Campaign for College Access and Affordability, and mobilized units for health care under the NAACP 880 campaign,” Smith said.
Smith is currently involved in raising money for Haiti and addressing the “disgraceful racial climate created at UCSD by the Compton Cookout party,” she said.
The party in question, which occurred in February, was thrown by a group of UCSD fraternity students mocking Black History Month, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Smith plans to use her new role to bring speakers to campus and to help organize events.
“I am planning to invite several of my contacts and colleagues to campus, and I would welcome the opportunity to work with those who plan Black History Month, MLK, and other celebrations,” she said.
She also emphasized one of her goals is to bring civil rights issues awareness to the 5-C community.
“There are lots of disparities minorities face in education, health, criminal justice, environmental justice, et cetera,” Smith said. “My aim is to keep those issues on the radar and to inform and empower a new generation of civil rights leaders who are addressing them and advocating for what is good in their respective communities.”
Smith acknowledged that this new responsibility, one of many for the rising junior, can sometimes be difficult to manage.
“It’s an enormous challenge to balance how I invest my time; however, it is worth it,” she said.
Smith has served in various leadership positions throughout her academic career, ranging throughout the local, state, and regional levels. In January, she interviewed Reverend Jesse Jackson while he was in Claremont for CMC’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. address. She was also featured in a segment from KCRA-TV, a television station based in Sacramento, CA.
“At a place like Claremont McKenna, where leadership and civics are hailed, I feel like my schoolmates and professors are understanding and supportive,” Smith said. “There are lots of impressive youth here.”