Jackson State University senior Michael Teasley recently was elected president of the JSU chapter of the NAACP. (Barbara Gauntt/The Clarion-Ledger)
JACKSON, Miss. — The president of the Mississippi NAACP says the selection of a white man to lead one of the organization’s chapters shows its real mission to represent more than one race.
Michael Teasley, a white man in his mid-30s who grew up in rural Rankin County, is the new president of the JSU chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Derrick Johnson, NAACP state president, said he’s watched Teasley grow as a leader and described him as committed.
“And this is a great opportunity for people to see that our organization is not about one race. Many people forget that white people helped organize the NAACP (in 1909),” Johnson told The Clarion-Ledger. “But I think Michael’s acceptance within the organization shows we practice what we preach — that no person should be discriminated against because of race.”
Teasley, a divorced father who is a political science major at JSU, said two defining moments led him to this point.
When he was 8, he remembers his father stopping at Teasley’s grandparents’ house. They invited them in for supper, but his father declined.
“And I knew why,” Teasley said. “I had a black friend named Leonard in the car with me. My grandparents were very much into segregation and didn’t allow black people into their home. We didn’t stay and eat because they would’ve never accepted Leonard. That sparked something inside of me.”
Soon after entering Jackson State in 2007, he was invited to an NAACP campus meeting. Teasley joined and agreed to participate in voter registration that week at JSU’s home football game as the presidential election between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama approached.
Teasley said he helped an elderly man selling T-shirts to register to vote. The man couldn’t read or write.
“The day President Obama won, the man called me. He said, ‘Voting is something I’ve always wanted to do.’ He was ecstatic that he had helped put Obama in office,” Teasley said. “That is when I decided I was going to be fully committed to the NAACP and not worry about stigmas or what anybody was saying, including my family.”
Teasley served as 2nd vice president in 2008-09 and 2009-10 before being elected by the 60-plus- member chapter last spring as president for the 2010-11 term.
As chapter president, Teasley said has plans to address issues such as delayed student refund checks and the quality of food in the campus cafeteria. He also wants to increase the chapter’s membership.
On a larger scale, Teasley is forming a movement to change the state flag, which incorporates the Confederate battle flag.
“It’s offensive to a lot of people,” he said. “It has to go.”