Many of us have heard of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and may know a
member or two. The NAACP is full of rich history, both nationally and locally. As the Santa Rosa-Sonoma County NAACP celebrates its seventieth anniversary, our branch encourages community members to learn more about our history and join us in the fight for racial equity and social justice.
Created on February 12, 1900, the NAACP is the home of grassroots activism for civil rights and social justice with members across the country advocating, agitating, and litigating for the civil rights due to Black Americans. The vision of the NAACP is envisioning an inclusive community rooted in liberation, where all people can exercise their civil and human rights without discrimination. The NAACP’s mission is to achieve equity, political rights, and social inclusion by advancing policies and practices that expand human and civil rights, eliminate discrimination and accelerate the wellbeing, education, and economic security of Black people and all people of color. Working to remove all barriers of racial discrimination through democratic processes, the NAACP has more than 2,200 units with over two million members throughout the United States.
Santa Rosa-Sonoma County NAACP The Santa Rosa-Sonoma County branch of the NAACP is our local unit, and is celebrating its 70-year anniversary. The branch was co-founded by Gilbert Gray and O. Platt Williams in 1953, after securing 300 memberships and receiving its national charter. The original membership included the Santa Rosa City Council and
Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. Mr. Williams became the branch’s first president, with Mr. Gray serving as the vice president and Rev. Ann Gray-Byrd serving as the branch’s first Secretary.
The branch quickly went to work, tackling issues of housing discrimination, equal opportunity in education and employment,
segregated businesses and prejudice in lending. In 1959, members arranged for, and sponsored, Melva Joy Patillo (Beals), one of the Little Rock Nine, to come to Santa Rosa and complete high school at Montgomery High School. Members also picketed Kress and Woolworth stores and participated in sit-ins, protesting segregated lunch counters in the South, and those still segregated in Santa Rosa.
In the mid-1970s, the branch began a watch patrol program in response to incidents of police brutality. The program deployed
“monitors’’ who tailed police officers on duty to watch and observe their interactions with community members. The branch
also worked to provide opportunities for young people through the development of youth memberships and programming, as well as actively participated in local and state elections, registering voters and providing education on candidates.
Currently, the branch has 150 active members and is led by President Kirstyne Lange, First Vice President Nzinga Woods, and second Vice President Dmitra Smith. The branch is supported by Secretary Danielle Garduño, Assistant Secretary Lindsey Franco, and Treasurer Regina Brennan. Over the last few years, the branch has undertaken many activities and initiatives, including participating inthe development of various local housing elements; advocating for environmental justice issues and solutions, participating in efforts to ensure transparency of local governments and law enforcement agencies, elevating the voices of youth and providing opportunities for young people to be civically and socially engaged, advocating for individuals experiencing homelessness and creating programs to increase access to mental health services and culturally representative clinicians and therapists for Black community members and other people of color.
While the branch holds regular monthly membership meetings, the bulk of the work takes place in committees. These committees include Criminal Justice, Education, Economic Development, Environmental Justice, Freedom Fund, Health, Housing, Membership, Veterans Affairs, and YouthWorks. Members are encouraged to participate in at least one committee with a commitment of 4-6 hours per month.
Civil Rights, Social Justice, and You
There are many reasons to become a member of the Santa Rosa-Sonoma County NAACP. Being a member offers individuals an opportunity to give back to their community through advocacy, education and civic engagement. Members make a difference each and every day in the fight for justice and equity, and our branch relies on the commitment and dedication of our members to help us stand up to racial disparities that are still too prevalent in our community and across the country. Being a member of the Santa Rosa-Sonoma County NAACP also allows members to work with activists and organizers in the local branch – organize marches, rallies, and direct action campaigns to bring attention to local issues, support access to
quality education, healthcare, and economic opportunities, advocate for laws and policies to improve our community, participate in voter registration and “get out the vote” campaigns and attend national
events, regional conferences, and trainings to sharpen individual and collective advocacy and leadership skills.
Memberships range from $10 annually for youth and $30 annually for adults to a variety of lifetime membership options. For
more information about membership and to join the Santa Rosa-Sonoma County NAACP, please visit the local chapter website or send an email.
References: Gray-Byrd, A. and Graves, S. (2011). Glimpses: A History of African Americans in Santa Rosa, California. (A copy
can be found at the Sonoma County Library) NAACP (2003):Our History.
Become a member of the
local chapter of NAACP
PO BOX 3964, Santa Rosa, CA 95403