by Anitra Hamilton
The Morgantown/Kingwood Branch of the NAACP appreciates this opportunity to publicize our work with residents of Monongalia and Preston counties.
Founded in 1909 in response to violence against African Americans around the country, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is the country’s largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization with over 2,200 units and branches and over two million activists. Our mission is to secure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and wellbeing of all persons.
The Morgantown branch organized in 1935, expanded to include Preston County in the 1970s and gained many new members in response to George Floyd’s murder in May 2020. Committees address local concerns, publicize our work through presentations and the media, raise funds and network with similar organizations. Some examples follow.
Criminal Justice Committee members cooperated with Morgantown city councilors and administrators, Morgantown police and community members to draft an ordinance establishing a Civilian Police Review and Advisory Board that city council adopted in May 2021. We then helped identify potential members of the board.
Judge Susan Tucker subsequently enjoined parts of the ordinance, but according to the city’s attorney, Ryan Simonton, the board will be able, “among other things, to review existing policies of the department, to make recommendations about those policies or changes to the policies and adoption of new policies, to collect data regarding department practices, to conduct public outreach sessions and to make reports to council on the board’s activities.” We also work with the West Virginia University Police Department Advisory Board and Morgantown Minority Liaison Coordinating Council.
The Education Committee hosts monthly “Readings on Race and Rights” discussions. Members participate in the Monongalia County Schools Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program, Dismantling Racism Together, and West Virginia Coalition for Truth in History, which addresses state-level “anti-racism” legislation. Members also coordinate our participation with the Community Coalition for Social Justice’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day events.
The Health Committee promotes awareness of health disparities impacting minority communities. COVID-19 vaccination and testing events focus on African American, Hispanic and disadvantaged residents in cooperation with the Partnership of African American Churches. We promote registering to donate bone marrow and, with the Red Cross, sponsor blood drives.
Our Legal Redress Committee receives complaints of discrimination related to issues like banking and finance, community relations, education, employment, government agency, housing, police misconduct, print and electronic media, public transportation, public accommodations and veterans’ affairs.
Filing complaints does not establish an attorney-client relationship with the NAACP or constitute an official complaint with a legal authority, such as filing a lawsuit or a complaint with a government agency. Rather, to quote Jerry Carr Jr., past-president of the branch, the committee “meets people at their weakest time and on their worst day and tries to help.”
The Political Action Committee is always busy. We received a grant to educate the public about redistricting resulting from the 2020 census, advocated around the use of the American Rescue Plan funds and, during the 2021 West Virginia legislative session, created action alerts and spoke at virtual public hearings about bills.
We promoted voting rights legislation by hiring students to do canvassing at farmers’ markets, sending postcards to Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin and having billboards in Star City and Suncrest.
We did voter registration drives, promoted voting in the April 2021 Morgantown City Council and May 2022 primary elections and moderated a Morgantown/Monongalia County League of Women Voters Zoom forum for the Primary Election.
I’m looking forward to witnessing a unifying and revolutionary movement within the city of Morgantown, led by the efforts and services of the Morgantown/Kingwood Branch of the NAACP and invite you to join us as we work for a better community for everyone.
We meet the third Tuesday of every month at 5:30 p.m. on Zoom. You can follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/naacp3241 (our branch number) or go to morgantownnaacp.org and become a member.