BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) – As protests against racism and police brutality continue across the country, WSKG’s Sarah Gager spoke with Georgia Verdier, President of the Elmira-Corning branch of NAACP, on how the civil rights movement might march forward.
GEORGIA VERDIER: “We want to see some changes occur. For me, too long African Americans have been on the menus of life where they are ordered around, abused and used, and not at the policy table, planning the menu. And that’s where we’re trying to go. We’re saying to people, ‘After you get through marching and protesting, let’s combine all of that energy, that anger and that frustration and channel it into voting. […] Take your souls to the polls. And this is how you impact the system. Also, we’re saying to them ‘Complete your census count. That brings funds into your community’.
Just creating—I think the two words we’re using is motivating and creating awareness—so education and motivation, and so we want the young people to know that— how to really impact the system, draw attention to the issues and the concerns you have, but then work to change that, to bring about change, or become a change agent. So that’s where we are with that.”
SARAH GAGER: “Yeah, are there racist policies that need to be updated in Elmira?”
GV: : “The thing is, we don’t have— we need diversity in government. Because that way, they would have a better understanding of the people they serve. To me, elected officials look to reflect the community they serve. And we believe if we can diversify, in different departments and that kind of thing, they would have a better handle on the issues and concerns impacting the people, and they will be able to address them prior to eruptions like we’ve seen across the nation.”
SG: “Right. Are there any efforts underway then to to make the government more diverse?”
GV: “We just had a forum with the police chiefs and the mayors – ‘Can we talk’. And we had a lot of people looking in on that and feeding— and giving feedback on that in terms of different perspectives. How many people in policy making positions view the community as opposed to the people in the community viewing them. And we need to have a coming together of the minds and giving— sharing information about how we are impacting each other and how we view the behavior of one another. And so, creating that awareness, we believe that if we can talk effectively, we can work effectively.
So we get some understanding about what the communities are facing, and then we take a look at how can we make a difference. So we are talking about people, whoever might be running for positions, if that person recommends ideas and platform reflects what you’d want to see in the community, then you can determine how you vote. And so yeah, we’re looking for people and we’re also encouraging young people to run for office, go to some of these policy meetings and get educated on the system so that you can help better impact the system. So we’re working holistically in many arenas in terms of trying to bring about systemic change.”
SG: How are you feeling about this latest push in the civil rights movement?
GV: I am feeling hopeful. I am feeling a movement more than just an occurrence. I see a rainbow coalition of young people marching and saying, ‘enough is enough.’ They seem to be just as concerned about—and I’m talking about a lot of Caucasians now too—justice and equality as we are. And that’s exciting for me because I believe, if we can all show solidarity like that, we will be heard much more than just one group. Because we’ve been doing that—African Americans have been doing that for 100 years and we haven’t brought about much change, but I believe that we combined our efforts. There’s power in unity. I believe we can make a difference.
I spoke in Watkins Glen last week, and young white people organized our gathering, and said – ‘We want to learn more. We want to do more. We need to know how can we make a difference?’ So I see that reaching out is different from the norm. And I also see across the country, they’re looking at police reform and all kinds of things that just never happened before.
So I believe that just like we see COVID-19 as something’s so different that it’s a new norm. I believe we’re headed for a new norm. And I don’t know how long it would take, but I don’t believe that we will ever be the same.