Merrimack Valley Branch of the NAACP

Hands Up

We will be highlighting different members of the Merrimack Valley Branch leading to our 75th Anniversary in October.
                This Month- The Tylers 

We are Vincent and Katie Tyler of North Andover, and have been married  56 years.  A lasting marriage takes love, commitment, and similar values.  We were blessed with two wonderful children, Vincent “Richie” Tyler,Jr., and William “Kenny” Tyler.  We raised our children to value education, hard work, and a Christian life. The saddest point in our life was losing our oldest child, Richie; but faith carried us through this hardship. 

Vincent was an Inventory Clerk at Gillette Co. in Andover, while attending New Hampshire College at night.  He later worked for MassPort in Boston.  I worked for TWA which afforded our family free travel.  Our children were able to visit places like Egypt while young; and Vincent and I traveled to many foreign countries.  We developed a love for geography and history.  After we supported our children through college, Vincent supported me while I attended Simmons College and then Brandeis University with majors in Political Science.  I was a Social Studies Teacher in Andover.  We are both retired.  

Vincent and I have always been active in community affaires because we believe in giving back to our church and community.  We admired so many things about the NAACP and decided to put our time and energy in the Merrimack Valley Branch.  We’ve been members for more than 40 years, and we both have life memberships.  In 1997, I had the honor of serving as President of the Merrimack Valley Branch NAACP, and currently serve on the executive committee.  Vincent has served as President, Treasurer, and now executive committee member.

When asked what we admire about the NAACP, and what keeps us inspired and motivated, we agree on three things.  First, there is continuity and truth to its history because they control and tell their own narrative. NAACP has continued serving the interest of black people since its founding in 1909.  I would suggest buying and reading their book: “NAACP Celebrating a Century 100 Years in Pictures,” by Gibbs Smith.  This is a great primary source read which chronicles, year by year, the events in which the NAACP has  fought the battle to end racism and segregation in America.   Our family & friends have had great discussions and even settled disputes by referring to this book.  In addition, there is an interesting magazine called, “The Crisis,” first published in 1909 by W.E.B. DuBois and has been on-going since.  The quarterly magazine gives current information to readers.  I pass my magazines on to young kids when inviting them to join the NAACP.  This magazine comes to all subscribing members.

 Secondly, we admire the strength and power of the NAACP in its ability to fight for our civil rights in the courts.  I was 12 years old, and Vincent was 17, when we first heard about the landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 where the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision overturning the “separate but equal” doctrine of the land.  Our families and school teachers told us to always remember and be proud of that day because this case was mostly won by black lawyers like Thurgood Marshall, a Supreme Court Justice.  As a 12 year old girl, I wrote my first essay on Thurgood Marshall.  It’s important to note that the NAACP, through its Legal Defense Team of brilliant black lawyers, have argued and mostly won 102 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.  I know, because we’ve counted all of them. 

 Thirdly, to the newcomers, try to attend at some point an NAACP Convention.  Vincent and I were energized beyond words when we attended our first NAACP Convention held in Boston in 1982. We stood on the ground floor of the Convention Hall mesmerized by thousands of black folks, white folks, Clergy & Rabbi’s, NAACP Youth & College Division, famous entertainers and  well-known gospel groups. We witnessed what I would call, the ‘anointed ones’—veterans of the movement—women in wheel chairs, walking with their canes, some bent over from years of service, but still determined to come and bear witness.

 Through local friends, we were introduced to a young black teenager named, Lisa Riddick who had been brought to the convention.  Well, that young lady later became President of the Merrimack Valley Branch NAACP multiple times, and now serves as our First Vice President.  It’s a reminder to keep our young people at the forefront because they will be our future leaders.  At the Convention, we were entertained one evening by a visiting southern black college marching band in full dress/hats/stepping.  It was awesome! What a surprise to know that the President of the U.S. attends and speaks at the Annual NAACP Convention.  As some bragged, it is the biggest, baddest convention in the world—that it is the meeting place of great minds, our own ‘black brain trust.’  Since Boston, we have attended many conventions including Charlotte, N.C.; Baltimore, MD; Pittsburg, PA; Atlanta, GA and N.Y.,N.Y.

 Vincent and I have been honored with awards and citations for advocacy and community leadership by the NAACP.  However, while our walls display our awards and accolades, we will always remember that the real honors go out  to those heroes whose shoulders we stand on.  Our Civil Rights Leaders like Medgar Evans, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Those warriors, known and unknown, who marched under the threat of gunfire, snarling dogs, and jail singing, “We Shall Overcome.”  We must continue to pray and stand for our youth who are killed daily by those policemen who hold no value for the lives of black men and women.  While our struggle goes on, we’re passing the baton over to our youth.  They are the strong new warriors, and we believe, with the help of God, they too will fight the good fight.