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Georgia NAACP announces Freedom Summer Fellowship Program
Sheila Francois
Sheila Francois, Georgia Southern University's Freedom Summer Fellow

The Georgia State Conference of the NAACP recently announced its 2014 Freedom Summer Fellows, including one based at Georgia Southern University.

Their goal, since they started last month, is to expand the awareness and reach of the civil rights organization and to increase voter registration and turnout.

Georgia Southern's Freedom Summer Fellow is Sheila Francois.

Francois was born in Miami but moved to Georgia in 2007 after what her family viewed as "a rising conflict of violence and fluctuating grade standards in Florida's educational system," according to a short biography.

"Sheila's family decided it would be best if they move to Georgia where they could get better educational opportunities than her parents," the biography reads.

Francois graduated from Central Gwinnett High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and is currently a rising senior majoring in political science and minoring in Africana studies at GSU. She is passionate about the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality, and she especially wants to teach citizens to become reliable activists to bring about change.

After graduating, Francois plans to attend law school and pursue her goal of becoming a congressional representative.

Youth branches of the Georgia NAACP have nurtured many future leaders of various major civil rights organizations, and the state has provided many native sons and daughters to the national leadership over the NAACP's long history.

The centerpiece initiative this summer is eight weeks of organizing and planning in local communities across the state. Freedom Summer Fellows' responsibilities include working with local NAACP branches, youth councils and partner organizations to mobilize voters and build local assemblies and Moral Monday movements focused on strengthening long-term alliances with advocates of labor; civil rights; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; immigrants; youth; and faith communities.

Defending and expanding voting rights, women's rights and immigrants' rights; well-funded, equitable public education; health care and environmental protection for all; equal protection under the law and addressing police and gang violence; and fighting for economic justice including living wages, full employment and union rights are also causes promoted by the NAACP.

During the 2014 Georgia legislative session, Moral Monday was designed to focus attention on and start dialogue about the state's refusal to expand Medicaid benefits to more low-income Georgians, even though the federal government would bear all of the cost of the expansion through 2016 and 90 percent thereafter; the state's Stand Your Ground law; the debate over abortion; workers' rights; and other issues.

There were a total of 72 arrests during the Moral Monday protests. The largest took place near the end of the legislative session, when 41 people - including the Rev. Dr. Francys Johnson, a Statesboro lawyer and the president of the Georgia NAACP - briefly were taken into custody after staging a sit-in in front of the governor's office.


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