WHEELING, W.Va. — New West Virginia NAACP President Owens Brown said he has been involved with matters of social justice for over 30 years, and he believes race relations have improved during the past three decades.
Brown, 63, a a resident of Wheeling, was tapped to lead the state NAACP during the organization’s conference last month in Charles Town. He previously held positions of president, vice president and legal redress as a member of the Wheeling NAACP.
Brown said he grew up in a family that was socially conscious, and he came of age during the 1960s and a time of social revolution in the country.
“Things are a lot different now,” he said. “There are more opportunities for African Americans, and I do believe the issue of racism is better. … There still are some problems. We have pockets of racism here and there we have to deal with, but there are better relationships.”
NAACP’s focus is improving educational opportunities for African Americans, and making certain civil rights – especially those pertaining to voting and elections – are maintained for all Americans, according to Brown.
“We think everyone should benefit from our decisions, and we’re about protecting people in general,” he said. “If my rights aren’t protected, your rights aren’t protected. … We need to get more people out to vote locally, and we’re also concerned about employment opportunities and making sure children are being educated.”
Brown is retired as a developmental specialist with the West Virginia Education Association, and during his 28 years there he also served as human and civil rights coordinator. He holds a masters degree in agency counseling from West Virginia University, a bachelors degree in psychology from the former West Liberty State College, and an associate degree in electro/mechanical engineering from Belmont Technical College.
In 1983, he was selected as a special delegate to the United Nations to review the North American strategy against Apartheid in South Africa.
Brown believes he is the only state NAACP president to come from Wheeling. He said West Virginia commands much respect with the national NAACP group because its state leadership has been strong over the years. The vice president of the West Virginia NAACP, Darryl Clausell, also is a resident of Wheeling.
Brown’s position will require him to do extensive traveling throughout the state to meet with people on civil rights issues.
“An injustice to one person is an injustice to all people – that is how we approach things in the NAACP,” he said. “We try to be colorblind when it comes to justice. Anyone can join. We do have white members in the NAACP.”