June 3, 2014. Officially chartered on February 15, 2014 the newly formed Watauga NAACP Branch is moving quickly toward community building and becoming a voice on issues such as poverty and economic injustices in the High Country.
North Carolina NAACP District 4 Director Jerry McCombs attended the local branch meeting on April 6 to preside over the election of officers. Being elected to the inaugural slate of officers were Cath Hopkins, President; Allison Jennings, 1st Vice President; Todd Carter, 2nd Vice President; Kedith England, 3rd Vice President; Jenny Horton, Secretary; Sheila Phipps, Assistant Secretary; Brittany Ball, Treasurer and Tonia Coles, Assistant Treasurer. Also elected that day were four at-large board members Nancy Love, Jeff Bortz, Judy Geary and John Geary.
The new branch formed as a result of the Moral Mondays demonstrations, organized by the N.C. NAACP, that began last year in Raleigh. These demonstrations were to protest General Assembly legislative policies such as voting law changes, cuts to unemployment benefits, public education cuts and the decision not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The protests broadened into the Forward Together movement, with local Forward Together groups forming across the state, including Watauga County, and holding their own Moral Mondays demonstrations.
Branch President Cath Hopkins said, “We believe that the NAACP has a demonstrated ability to empower people from all walks of life to work together for a more just and equal society. We want to employ this model for the greater good of all people in Watauga County, so we might all enjoy a more compassionate and sustainable community.”
The branch is currently in the planning stages for a Community Building Event where people from all walks of life will gather together at a local park for low-key connection, recreation, and “bridge building” complete with food. This will be a family-friendly and inter-generational event open to all people of good will and will feature activities such as kickball, arts and crafts, non-competitive games, storytelling and opportunities to learn about careers, health, community issues, services and programs.
While the Watauga branch intends to focus locally on issues of poverty and preventing discrimination in the areas of education, voting rights and health care they have already been active at the state level. Several members attended the most recent Moral Monday demonstration on May 19 and the People’s Lobby and Advocacy Day on May 27 in Raleigh.
General Membership meetings are open to all and are held monthly on the third Sunday of each month, 4pm at Boone Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 381 E. King Street. The next meeting is scheduled for Sunday June 15 and the community has an open invitation to this, as well as all other and subsequent monthly general meetings, to learn more and to get involved at the local level.
About the NAACP:
Since its founding by a multi-racial group of activists in 1909, the NAACP has worked for the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination. Even during periods of vicious violence and overt racial hostility, NAACP leaders and members have steadfastly and courageously kept to nonviolent means to advocate for greater justice through marches, the press, the ballot, lobbying, and litigation. For history of the NAACP, click here and click here.
Some prominent NAACP aided advancements included 1954 Brown vs Board of Ed., 1955 Bus Boycott, 1957 and 1964 Civil Rights Acts, 1964 Economic Opportunity Act, 1965 Voting Rights Act, and Fair Housing Act of 1968. To see the current legal docket of the NAACP, click here.
While issues of racial injustice remain central to the NAACP, the organization takes very seriously its mission statement to seek equality of rights of all persons and is a powerful advocate for people who are marginalized. Marriage equality is another issue of civil rights more recently embraced, with the National NAACP Board passing a formal resolution in support of marriage equality in May 2012. The NAACP is also very concerned with rights and protections for immigrants and undocumented persons, people without healthcare, people living in poverty, women’s rights, public education, voting rights, and environmental justice.