SCHENECTADY — A year and a half after joining the Schenectady chapter of the NAACP, Nicolle Harris, a local pastor, will be sworn in Thursday as president of the organization.
Rev. Harris, a pastor at Duryee Memorial AME Zion Church, arrived in Schenectady in 2019 from Asbury Park, New Jersey, at the request of her bishop.
“I approach this role and everything I do in life while making sure it’s aligned with what God has called for me to do,” Harris said. “I’m not just appointed to a church, I’m appointed to a community. So it’s not, ‘Nicole, go over there and be the pastor of that church,’ it’s ‘Nicole, go there and serve that community.’ And I look at it that way. When God sent me here, he wasn’t just sending me to the church, he was sending me to the community.”
Since her arrival in the Capital Region, taking care of her community has been important for Harris. She became an active member of the local NAACP chapter and worked extensively on registering voters for the 2020 election, along with speaking about racial injustice at press conferences at the height of protests last year.
“We sat over there on Albany Street in front of the library to register people to vote,” Harris said. “I was excited that we were registering people that were saying this was their first time voting, 50-year-old people. Those kinds of things were exciting this year.”
Harris, who takes on the role from Dr. Odo Butler, said she’s planning on keeping the chapter “very active,” and feels it’s in a position to expand on the volume of work it does. Butler helped relaunch the chapter in late 2019, after a few years of inactivity. Seventy-five members joined the organization during its relaunch.
“[My vision] aligns very much with the national mission, just continue to work for equality,” Harris said. “We want to work in partnership with other organizations, the school district and the city to make sure that equity and equality are available to all people in the city.”
Harris said she’s grateful for the foundation Butler has left her with, and that approaching the pandemic will be one of her top priorities.
“We have to educate people as far as the vaccine is concerned,” Harris said. “We need to make sure the vaccine is accessible to Black and brown communities. Those are the kinds of things that I’m looking forward to getting to right away, getting through this difficult season.”