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 2 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 and expanded to include Preston County in the 1970s.
During the past year, we have been active in many arenas. We are pleased that the Morgantown City Council appointed NAACP members Rich Burks, Bob Cohen and Dady Dadyburjor to the new Morgantown Civilian Police Review and Advisory Board. New NAACP member Nicole Lauffer is also a member. Board members elected Burks as chair and Lauffer as secretary. The board has appointed committees to write bylaws, has met with Morgantown Police Chief Eric Powell and Deputy Chief P.J. Powell and members have started their training by riding along with police officers.
We participated in several community social justice events, including the 2022 Juneteenth celebration in Fairmont; West Virginia University’s Health Sciences Center Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Fair in July; the Community Coalition for Social Justice (CCSJ) Social and Environmental Justice Fair at the Hazel Ruby McQuain Riverfront Park in September; CCSJ’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration in conjunction with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute; and WVU’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Family Field Day in conjunction with the WVU Gender Equity Council in April.
Members participated in Dismantling Racism Together and the West Virginia Coalition for Truth in History, which successfully lobbied against proposed legislation in Charleston that would have limited access to a complex perspective on our history.
With funding from the Partnership of African American Churches (PAAC), we sponsored events addressing health disparities among people of color. These included blood drives in cooperation with the Red Cross and a program on “Being Your Own Patient Advocate” in October, focusing on health literacy and featuring speakers with expertise in health care as providers and caregivers, including Dr. Lauri Andress (associate dean for equity, inclusion and community engagement at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine), Arthur Breese (director of diversity and inclusion at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine), Staysha Quentrill (professional birth doula) and Joyce Dole (caregiver).
In May, we hosted “Advocating for Mental Wellness” with Felicia Hooper of Stillwater Counseling, Mark King of Appalachian Counseling Center and WVU teaching instructor Fanica Payne.
PAAC funding also supported our work to increase engagement in the political process and to address our civil rights. We partnered with the League of Women Voters and Morgantown National Organization for Women (NOW) through West Virginia Women Vote to register voters and get out the vote for the fall 2022 election.
Our “ ‘Know Your Rights’: Rules for Interacting with Police” event in March featured a video and panel discussion with Fairmont Attorney Ron Tucker, WVU Professor James Nolan and Nick Ward from the West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union.
On May 7, we hosted a Community Day at the BOPARC Marilla Center, where representatives of the Woodburn Association of Neighbors, Suncrest Neighborhood Association, WVU Black Law Students Association, WVU Center for Black Culture and Research, Morgantown/Monongalia County League of Women Voters, Morgantown NOW, CCSJ and Planned Parenthood discussed their work. It was also an opportunity to discuss ways to improve voter turnout in the 2024 elections.
All who share our mission are welcome to join. We meet the third Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. over Zoom. Members can participate in committees like community coordination, criminal justice, education, health, legal redress and political action, as well as our “Readings on Race and Rights” discussions.