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Originally published: 2014-01-29 11:05:01
Last modified: 2014-01-29 11:05:47

Watauga NAACP branch applies for charter

by Anna Oakes

At least 125 people have signed up to form the first NAACP branch in Watauga County, temporary president Marg McKinney said this week.

"We have submitted everything we need to do in order for us to charter a new branch here in Watauga County," McKinney said.

The hopeful branch is required to have at least 100 dues-paying members and describe the issues it feels it would be most effective in addressing, she said.

The application was forwarded to the national NAACP organization. Formed in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization.

"As soon as they vote on it, we will be officially chartered and can function like any other group of the NAACP," McKinney said.

The new branch formed as a result of the Moral Mondays demonstrations held last year in Raleigh -- spearheaded by the N.C. NAACP and other groups to protest Republican-led 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. In October, N.C. NAACP President William Barber II spoke at the Schaefer Center in Boone.

The Watauga County NAACP branch organizational meeting was held Nov. 2, 2013, with a promotional flier inviting persons of all races to further the NAACP's mission "to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination."

An NAACP branch for Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties also formed late last year.

McKinney said preventing discrimination in the areas of education, voting rights and health care have emerged as top priorities for the Watauga branch.

Once the branch is chartered, members will elect officers serving two-year terms and create committees. The branch is expected to meet monthly.

"We're in the process of getting people to decide what area they would like to work in, and what kind of leadership they would like to take," said McKinney.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2,  the group will host a potluck at the Boone Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, inviting anyone who plans to become a NAACP member or who is interested in learning more.

The group is also chartering a bus and organizing carpools for the Saturday, Feb. 8, Moral March on Raleigh, which calls "on all people of conscience and concern to join us as we stand against the extreme and regressive agenda being pushed in North Carolina," the event website states. March participants will gather at Shaw University in Raleigh at 9:30 a.m. and will march to Jones Street -- the site of the General Assembly building -- at 10:30 a.m.

McKinney said about 50 people have reserved seats on the 6 a.m.-departing charter bus, with a few more available. The cost to ride on the bus is $25, but scholarships are available for those who cannot afford the cost. The bus leaves from St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Boone. Additional vans could be chartered if necessary. In addition, a number of people will be carpooling.

"I expect we'll have over 100 people down there," she said.

"The group of people that are coming together are as varied as you can imagine, in ages and their economic level, their educational level, their political affiliation -- it's just really a cross-section of North Carolina," McKinney said. "I think the South and the nation as a whole are looking to see what we're doing."

For more information about the Feb. 8 march or the Watauga NAACP branch, contact McKinney at (828) 264-4310 or (