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NAACP conference opens in W.Va.

August 09, 2013|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Young African-American males are “under siege and should be classified as an endangered species,” the keynote speaker told a conference of delegates from West Virginia’s 16 NAACP branches on Friday.

 The remarks came in an address by local attorney Sherman Lambert before about 100 NAACP members and guests gathered for the first day of the two-day 69th Annual WV State Conference of Branches at Mount Zion United Methodist Church at 532 W. Martin St.

 Lambert centered his remarks on the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, reaching back into three noted Mississippi and Alabama civil rights cases of the 1950s and 1960s to illustrate his points about racial discrimination.

Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman, who was found innocent last month in a highly publicized trial in Sanford, Fla.

 Lambert said he and his family recently attended a rally in the wake of the Martin case in Daytona Fla., where he picked up a pamphlet titled, “The Law and You.” It offers advice to black youths on how to handle “real-life situations” involving interactions with police, he said.

 He referred to the Emmett Till case in which the 14-year-old boy was beaten, fatally shot and his body dumped in a river in Mississippi in 1955. He touched on the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where four black teenage girls were killed. He also noted the June 12, 1963 fatal shooting of civil rights leader Medgar Evers in the driveway of his home in front of his family.

 Sherman also focused on the Wayne Jones case that involved an unarmed, 50-year-old black Martinsburg man who was shot multiple times by several Martinsburg police officers as he was walking along Queen Street on the night of March 13.

 ”He was approached by the police, questioned, Tasered and shot 15 times,” Sherman said.

 The incident is being investigated by the West Virginia State Police, he said.

“I remain optimistic that the state police will issue a just finding, but in my heart, I am aware of local politics which provide for a pessimistic and bleak outcome,” he said.

 Sherman has filed a federal civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg on behalf of Jones’ family.

Friday was taken up with the annual meeting of chapter representatives, followed in the evening by the speaking program, banquet, musical selections and a silent auction.

The meeting also saw the re-elections of George Rutherford and Jim Tolbert, both of Charles Town, W.Va., as first vice president and secretary of the West Virginia NAACP, respectively. Taylor Perry, a retired Berkeley County educator, was elected second vice president, said Doris Griffin, spokeswoman for the conference.

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