President of NAACP Sharonne Blanck creates spaces for BIPOC community in Humboldt

Since November 2020 Sharonne Blanck has served her second term as president of Eureka’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and

has been working with high schools in Mckinleyville, Arcata, and Eureka advocating for more education about Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) experiences.

“I am involved in several groups of folks that are doing work in the schools to help teachers and administrators and school boards do a better job of creating safe nurturing and vibrant environments for Black and Brown folks,” Blanck said.

The start of Blanck’s work began by supporting her husband who joined the NAACP about six years ago when they lived in Reno, Nevada to create a better place for their two Black sons. Since then, they’ve both been involved in NAACP and are working to support BIPOC students and families in Humboldt. 

“I think the schools in this county do a terrible job supporting the needs of their students and families of color,” Blanck said. “I don’t think it’s unique to this area but this is where I live so this is where I am focusing.”

Blanck implemented Listening Sessions in order to create a safe space for students, community members, and families to speak freely about their overall experiences. These sessions advocate their needs for future success. Students identify who they want in this space and it’s usually a combination of administrators and teachers. 

Lorna Byrnat, a close friend of Blanck’s, said that Blanck has become more vocal, more present and more outspoken since becoming president and has used her voice to advocate for their branch, community and children.

“Sharonne’s passion is on display when she is in advocacy mode, especially when children are involved,” Bryant said. “Sharonne is a fierce advocate when it comes to issues directly affecting our community, Sharonne makes her presence, her voice, and her passion seen, heard, and felt.”

Alia Dunphy, the interim vice president of Student Services at College of the Redwoods, also a close friend of Blanck’s, says that she can see Blanck’s influence shaping the community around them.

“While she centers BIPOC voices, she actively and intentionally welcomes all voices and experiences to the table,” Dunphy said. “We need each other for any lasting change to take root and become sustainable, as the president of NAACP she is willing to roll up her sleeves and do whatever is necessary, her vision for Humboldt County’s future is strength-based and rooted in community-focused solutions.”

Even though the pandemic changed the ways of face-to-face events, that didn’t stop Blanck and her advocacy for more education about BIPOC experiences. Since the transition to zoom events, Blanck noticed how much more people have been engaged with the content and is continuing on creating events via Zoom. 

Although Blanck doesn’t intend on being president of the NACCP for decades, she says that this type of work has always been important and there need to be spaces that are for people of color to thrive and that help clear obstacles that get in the way of that.

Photo by Lupita Rivera

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