By LINDA COMINS
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. — Current concerns for African-Americans will be addressed when West Virginia NAACP branches hold their state conference in Morgantown this week.
The theme for the conference is “The State of African-Americans in West Virginia During a Chaotic Time.”
Wheeling resident Owens Brown, president of the West Virginia Conference of NAACP Branches, said, “We’ll be focusing on a range of issues.” The state group follows the national NAACP’s lead on issues including prison reform, voting rights and health care.
Brown said, “There is national concern about voting rights and suppression that we are beginning to witness with voter ID laws. In the 2016 election, there seemed to be indicators that due to voter suppression, it did have an impact in some of the places.”
He said, “There will be a discussion of the politics of the day. We will be looking at a very chaotic government and how does it impact us as a people and a nation. … There is a fear with the chaos in Washington, will that filter down to the general population? We need to be aware of things that are happening. We have to depend upon law enforcement to be an unbiased arbitrator or protector.”
Brown noted that, for the first time ever, the national NAACP has issued notice to avoid travel to Missouri “because of the atmosphere concerning African-Americans” in that state. He said, “Some of the legislation that has been passed seems to push us backwards instead of forward.”
The state conference’s business session will be held Saturday. Brown said Diana Bell of Wheeling will speak on the issue of African-American education in Appalachia. The Rev. Matthew Watts will address “The State of African-Americans in West Virginia.”
Rick Martin, president of the Charleston NAACP, will discuss minority economic development in West Virginia. Brown said the session will explore economic initiatives available through Fifth Third Bank and Wells Fargo Bank.
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