By Brandon Martin
Local NAACP President Naomi Hodge-Muse asked The Charity League of Martinsville and Henry County to join the fight for social justice reform.
Membership in the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) was discussed during an Aug. 4 virtual call with the league.
Hodge-Muse said she has “been floored” by the commitment of local protest groups and she asked members of the Charity League to provide their support.
“America is at a pivotal point and I’m asking The Charity League to do something that you haven’t been asked to do,” Hodge-Muse said. “That is to join the NAACP and the civil rights movement. I’m not asking for your money. I’m asking for your involvement. If we don’t change the way that we think and the way that we behave within our communities, we are dooming our communities.”
Noting that her lineage dates back to 1749, she said “I’m an American and I expect to live and to have my life ordered by the fact that I am an American and that I have certain inalienable rights even though those rights were not afforded to me until after the Emancipation Proclamation and still not really afforded to me until the 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights Acts.”
Hodge-Muse attributed some of the recent violence to the current coronavirus pandemic. Speaking on a larger topic of “what discrimination looks like,” Hodge-Muse said that mask mandates on “the majority population” has brought about “screaming, destroying of displays, refusing to wear a mask and cursing people out.
Can you imagine that is your life in America? That is how someone is controlling you in America, Hodge-Muse said. “That fact of control is driving the ‘majority’ Americans crazy because they do not want to wear a mask. Well how about walking around brown? That is the analogy that I want you to wrap your head around.
She said she wants to change how the community sees each other and how the county works to provide solutions to these complex issues.
“You are an educated group of women. You are a dynamic group of women. I want you to run for the Board of Supervisors. I want you to stand up and fight for a vocational technical learning center,” Hodge-Muse said.
She said she opposed the plan to build the new jail in lieu of other projects like a vocational technical learning center.
“We incarcerate more people in America than any other nation, including communist China and Russia,” Hodge-Muse said. “We have got to stop.”
She said that out of 100,000 residents in Virginia, 1,386 black people are incarcerated, compared to 236 of white people.
“We are incarcerated at a 5:1 ratio,” Hodge-Muse said, adding that the recent decriminalization of marijuana would go a long way in decreasing that disparity.
She spoke of her own history battling racism when she attended Fieldale-Collinsville High School for summer school.
“Kids are not accepting this,” she added. “Our children are not accepting this.”
Hodge-Muse implored members of the league to have these discussions with their spouses and family members.
“To be an anti-racist is to actually physically decide ‘I’m going to think better. I’m going to think long. I’m going to look at myself and say am I helping this America or am I helping to destroy it,’” she said. “It is up to all of us to stand up and say enough is enough. I ask you to join the NAACP. I ask you to talk to your husbands. I ask you to talk to your wives or whatever your significant others are. I ask you to come committed to civil rights here in Henry County.”
After her speech, 12 membership applications were distributed, with many others receiving forms via email.