Terrance L. Bankston noticed a void in the New Jersey political process. Young African American professions were not being engaged. So he founded, in 2010, New Jersey's Network Of Young Professionals (NJNYP), an organization whose goal and mission is to effectively bridge the generation gap within campaign operations and government and galvanize professional voters in the state of New Jersey, ages 18-35, by working collectively to support progressive leadership within municipal, county, state and federal government.
"I founded NJNYP because of the need to civically re-engage, at a significant level, the 18-35 year old population. There is a noticeable generation gap not just in government but in the political process that elects leaders at all levels of government," explains Bankston, who was recently recognized by Ebony Magazine as the top 30 under 30 leaders on the rise in the USA. "Specifically, the gap exists at the local level because that is where the youth is most disengaged. Clearly there is a need to protect the interest of our future and to ensure the proper transition of power as well as encourage civic engagement overall which will enhance voter turnout among this demographic. We also recognize the need to create political entrepreneurs: videography, media relations, graphic design, campaign management, fund-raising, etc," he says.
Each month the organization hosts a professionals network mixer. According to Bankston, the mission of the organization is "to effectively bridge the generation gap within campaign operations and government, by executing the following: support edification within NJNYP’s membership on candidates and upcoming elections relevant to NJNYP’s mission statement; strategically engage in municipal, county, state and federal campaigns and elections; support candidates within and outside of New Jersey who support bridging the generation gap within government; train the NOW generation in political campaign operations; fund-raise for candidates that NJYPN will endorse; host professional mixers, for individuals ages 18-35, to discuss and promote candidates endorsed by NJYPN; and support NJYPN’s members in their respective personal and professionals quests," he explains.
Newark, NJ-born and reared Bankston launched NJYPN after a year of organizing and galvanizing key young leadership. The first mixer, says Bankston, "highlighted local political leaders like Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Newark West Ward Councilman Ron Rice, Newark South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka, and Brooklyn's Kevin Powell."
Since its inception, the NJNYP has grown in membership and includes a range of professionals. "Our membership is not limited to political people, however, in terms of membership, our goal is to engage like-minded professionals in our organization that will not just empower, but educate our community on the functions of government, functions of successful political organizing and civic involvement in order to connect to current political leadership and those who are aspiring to seek public office. So because our goals are mutually beneficial, the response from members of the campaign operations and government has been noteworthy," he says. And the organization reaches out to potential members in a variety of ways. "The NJNYP reaches out through social networks, college tours, hosting social events, media outlets and good old fashioned word- -of-mouth," says Bankston, who is also the assistant director of the Newark Youth One Stop Career Center where he directly manages a $5.5 million dollar youth services operation.
It is a busy--and critical--time for the organization, as it is gearing up for upcoming local elections in which Bankston, himself, will run. "As the founder of the NJNYP, community organizer and activist, the operating committee as well as membership, it is important and necessary to support me as their first political endorsement for the 2011 Essex County, New Jersey's Freeholder primary race; June 7th. This election will mark the second most triumphant defeat in an election since the 2008 presidential primary," explains Bankston. "And in September 2011, the NJNYP will officially launch its Y.E.S. WE WILL state wide campaign which is a call to action: calling all civic, social and collegiate groups, servicing the 18-35 year old population, to join the movement to elevate dialogue about the state of affairs of our future, as well as present challenges; calling all faith-based leaders to rally around the 18-35 year old generation to promote civic engagement and effective transitions of power to a younger generation of leaders; calling all seasoned leaders to engage in a roundtable discussion to develop and produce a plan to properly transition power to a younger generation of leaders. In addition, it's to address the current and forthcoming issues facing our generation."
NJNYP has a lot on its plate. But Bankston feels all is achievable--and necessary. As he declares, "NJNYP is necessary because it seeks to connect information to people, people to action and action to policy. "