Watauga NAACP branch elects officers
by Staff Reports
Officially chartered on Feb. 15, 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.
Jerry McCombs, North Carolina NAACP District 4 Director, attended the local branch meeting on April 6 to preside over the election of officers. Elected to the inaugural slate of officers were Cath Hopkins, president; Allison Jennings, first vice president; Todd Carter, second vice president; Kedith England, third 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, at 4 p.m. at the Boone Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, located at 381 E. King St. 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.
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 kept to nonviolent means to advocate for greater justice through marches, the press, the ballot, lobbying and litigation.