LEXINGTON, Ky. — They are different genders and hail from different parts of the country. There is more than a decade separating their ages. One is highly educated and one is a student. Even with all their differences, Dr. Shambra Mulder and Matthew Williams are more alike than they are different.
What You Need To Know
- Lexington NAACP members believe heavily in education
- Longtime member recruited newer member after school board meeting
- One, a doctor from South Carolina, the other, a young father from Chicago
- Both encourage people to get involved
Williams and Mulder are active members of the Lexington-Fayette NAACP. Mulder, 50, is a native of Columbia, South Carolina, and holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Kentucky. She is the deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Behavioral Health, Development and Intellectual Disabilities and owner of Abundant Living Psychological and Coaching Services for Children and Adolescents PLLC in Lexington. She is also the Lexington-Fayette NAACP education chair and has been involved in the organization since 2010.
Williams, 39, is a native of Chicago and is a student studying to be a social worker and is first vice president of the Lexington-Fayette NAACP.
Mulder said her primary focus is education because she is a mother and spent years working in public schools as a certified school psychologist with students that have difficulties and special needs.
“That was my start advocating for kids in the schools,” she said. “And in a psychologist, trauma-informed therapy and just culturally responsive therapy, you have to run down to credentials, but basically, that's what I do.”
It was education that prompted Mulder to recruit Williams for the NAACP. He showed up at a board of education meeting as a concerned parent.
“I'm a father and I care about what is going on with my kids,” Williams said. “I also am a Black man in America who has lived through the trauma that comes along with that. I'm lucky enough to have survived to this point, to where I can look back and say I have a family, and then it was time for me to do more. I had the time and the space to do it.”
Williams said Mulder looked at him and told him they needed him at the NAACP.
“I snatched him up,” she said. “He showed an interest. I go to school board meetings and advocate for things and he was there. I know we need people that are interested enough to go to the school board meeting.”
Mulder said Williams’ involvement in the NAACP exemplifies the organization’s mission.
“We try to help people as much as we can and we have some great people on with us who can actually get things done and are professionals,” she said. “I would like to see members get active and not just pay the membership fee and not get involved because I think we could do more.”
Williams said his and Mulder’s involvement in the NAACP goes beyond their personal interests. “We care not just about our own families, but about the greater community, our larger family,” Williams said. “We care about things like redlining, which is a racialized trauma. It is one of the many historical traumas that have been placed on our people and all of us as Americans. Historical trauma is a trauma that happens to an entire people — enslavement and the Holocaust — when Dr. Mulder is talking about these traumas we experience, it is not just the personal traumas we experience when we step out into the streets or when we might drive our car and see blue lights behind us, this is deeper than that. We have these historical traumas that were placed on our peoples like redlining that is layered on top of the stuff that we have got to live through day-to-day. We are born into trauma as people, which makes it that much harder to overcome. It's embedded in our systems. That's how it gets passed intergenerationally. It's also persistently institutionalized because it's been written into policies like redlining.”
Mulder said the Lexington-Fayette NAACP deals with many problems and throughout the pandemic and instances of racial injustice in Kentucky and throughout the country, people have increased the amount of money and time they have donated.
“We just have a big opportunity,” she said. “We kind of stayed behind the scenes because we are still a national organization and have to follow national rules and national structure. There's a lot of things people probably want us to do that we can't do or don't do without permission from the national organization.”
Mulder said Williams has connected with students at college chapters of the NAACP and her son is part of the organization's youth chapter.
“We see young people recognizing the value of advocating and social justice,” she said. “I think they just need an organization behind them. It gives you a bit of credibility when you're out speaking and I think what's great about the NAACP is that we are open to new people.”
Mulder said to see problems facing the minority population in Lexington, one needs to look no further than the city’s most well-known structure.
“What bothers me the most is how beautiful Rupp Arena is and all the time and effort and money spent on that,” she said. “But you can literally go around the corner and feel you're in a third-world country. In theory, I can hear the politician saying it's going to bring jobs, but to who? People are moving out and to get away when you try to diversify neighborhoods or even the school system.”
Williams said it is important not to take part in the “Oppression Olympics,” which is comparing which groups or individuals have it worse.
“When it comes down to it, everybody's story matters,” he said. “A good place to start is sharing our stories, and actually sitting in it and taking the time to listen to each other's stories so then we can match up the commonalities. That's what's going to bring us together.”
The Lexington-Fayette NAACP currently meets at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of each month via Zoom. Visit www.lexnaacp.net to sign up as a member and attend the meetings.