Virginia House Delegates visit local NAACP branch

Photos by Anaika Miller
Nick Rush (left, R-District 7), Greg Habeeb (center, R-District 8) and Joseph Yost (right, District 12) attended the NAACP’s general body meeting Sunday.

The New River Valley’s NAACP branch hosted a forum with Virginia House Delegates Greg Habeeb (R-District 8), Nick Rush (R-District 7) and Joseph Yost (R-District 12) at the group’s general body meeting in Christiansburg on Sunday.

The branch invited the delegates to discuss political issues with members as part of its Civil Rights and Educational Development Opportunities programming. About 75 people attended the meeting, and roughly half raised their hands when asked if it was their first time at an NAACP event.

In a press release, branch president Rita Irvin said, “Having our delegates accept the invitation to share with our membership is important in the legislative process. Having an effective government begins with actively listening to constituents.”

The three representatives were given an opportunity to share their thoughts on issues the NAACP has selected as legislative priorities, which include mass incarceration, voting rights and ending the school-to-prison pipeline.

Yost shared his thoughts on assisting residents who suffer from mental illness.

Crowd. Audience members listen to Virginia House Delegates during the NAACP’s general body meeting Sunday.

The discussion grew tense when representatives were asked to respond to the subject of gerrymandering. Both Habeeb and Rush were booed for voicing their support for gerrymandering.

Rush said he did so because he does not feel the redistricting committee assigned to redraw lines in Virginia is as nonpartisan as it should be.

Habeeb said he believes African Americans and rural voters lose representation when nonpartisan lines are drawn.

When asked about how citizens can better share their goals with representatives, Habeeb encouraged attendees to connect with their representatives on a personal level.

“The way each of us legislates is through relationships,” Habeeb said. “When you come to advocate, and you don’t have that relationship, you won’t have that goodwill built up.”

Additionally, he recommended that members of the community find out how an issue affects locals, rather than rely on information provided by larger regional or national organizations.

“What I want to know is, is how does this play out locally?” Habeeb said. “Whatever the agenda item is, you are going to be the best advocate for it, not an association.”

“What I want to know is, is how does this play out locally?” Habeeb said. “Whatever the agenda item is, you are going to be the best advocate for it, not an association.”

Karen Jones, the NAACP’s Political Action Chair, planned and moderated the conversation.

“I thought the event really well,” Jones said afterwards. “My biggest take-away was learning how [the representatives] work. Learning about their priorities, and how they worked with constituents is important for us as a branch so we can better advocate.”

Jones said she appreciated the three representative for taking the time to attend the meeting.

The Montgomery County-Radford City- Floyd County NAACP branch was started in 1959 and currently has about 250 members. The general body meeting, which is open to the public, is held at 3:30 p.m. on the fourth Sunday of every month.

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