Alaina Ruffin joined George Mason University’s NAACP chapter her freshman year. Three years later, the rising senior English major is the organization’s incoming president.
“I was very curious because coming from my background, I had known the NAACP as such a revered, and frankly, old civil rights organization,” she said. “Especially housing big names like Ida B. Wells and W.E.B. DuBois.”
Although Ruffin, who is from Herndon, Virginia, has been an advocate since she was 15, she said she wondered what the NAACP would want with younger people, and how her generation could even contribute to the cause.
She began attending general membership meetings and getting more involved with NAACP events. Her passion for activism led Ruffin to gain more responsibility and leadership roles.
Ruffin was initially a part of the Political Action Committee and the Education Committee for Mason’s NAACP chapter, and in her sophomore year served on the Executive Committee as the social justice chair.
Although the pandemic and organizational difficulties resulted in Mason’s chapter being placed on hold, Ruffin continued to advocate during the Black Lives Matter social justice movement, holding multiple check-ins, discussions, and voter registration drives in the Fairfax area. “I went rogue,” she joked. “I kind of just took matters into my own hands.”
Ruffin played a pivotal role in officially reactivating the formerly inactive chapter in May 2021.
Philip Wilkerson, the manager of industry advising and employer development in University Career Services, has been the faculty advisor for Mason’s NAACP chapter since 2019.
“Alaina was built for this,” Wilkerson said. “Every president before her has gone on to do great things, and I know she will too.”
In addition to serving as the chapter’s vice president her junior year, Ruffin served as the first vice president in the Virginia NAACP Youth and College Division for an interim period. She also reactivated NAACP chapters in the Loudoun Youth Advisory Council, the Stafford Youth Council, and the University of Lynchburg.
For all of her hard work, Ruffin is the recipient of two NAACP Annual Conference Awards: the 2022 Gloster B. Current Organizer of the Year Award and the Medgar Wiley Evers Youth Leadership Award in the College Short Story Category.
“I wasn’t expecting to win one, let alone both,” she said.
The latter award, presented in honor of the Civil Rights figure, has three categories: an essay, a short story, and a poem.
Evers is one of Ruffin’s idols, and she compares her feelings as a Black woman in contemporary America to how Evers, the first NAACP field secretary, must have felt at times, and takes strength knowing that he forged ahead.
“The award is a testament to his memory and the work he did, not just as a civil rights figure but as a character in conceptualizing how we perceive racial justice advocacy today,” Ruffin said.
As the incoming president of Mason’s NAACP chapter, Ruffin said she can’t wait to join forces with other students in hopes of creating a more just world.
“Advocacy is multifarious,” she said. “There is a place for you in the movement. Even when we doubt ourselves, we still have something to contribute to our futures.”