Holsey looks back on his first few months as Blair County NAACP leader | News, Sports, Jobs

Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski Blair County NAACP President Andrae Holsey talks to 14-year-old Eli Riling of Warriors Mark at the historic Race in Railroad City Black event on Thursday.

New companies often stage “soft” openings to make sure everything will run smoothly before fully committing to engage with the public.

Events have not allowed for that kind of openness for Andrae Holsey, who became president of the Blair County NAACP last spring at age 22, succeeding longtime county leader Don Witherspoon.

Instead, since Holsey took over, the local branch has engaged in a lot of racially charged matters — relating to local schools, businesses, the courthouse and hate groups, Holsey said. .

It was disturbing for him.

“All the progress we think we’ve made” in recent decades – even in the 1960s, Holsey said, “It seems to be unraveling.”

Increase in hate crimes

Holsey said there was “a drastic increase in hate crimes and intimidation” in schools in the region.

In one district, videos made by students have surfaced suggesting “Black people should die” and expressing hatred for black people, he said.

There have been death threats and intimidation of students by other students, and in one case, students forced black students to sit in the back of a bus, he said. declared. Security guards also used excessive force on black students, with comments such as “You will grow up to be like the others.”

The local branch of the NAACP helps authorities deal with these issues.

The racial divide is not just in the schools, however, he said, as some businesses in the region have become a ” eyes closed “ racist mistreatment of employees.

In one case, an out-of-county construction company working in Blair County knew about and did nothing to stop abuse by a black worker, he said.

This worker was given a shovel and a broom with a shorter handle than the others, he said, adding that both tools were painted black. The worker was fired after filing a complaint and was charged with theft.

Neither he nor any other worker was responsible for the theft, Holsey said.

Management was aware of what was going on, he said, but the company dismissed the worker’s complaint as one of a “unhappy” employee.

The branch advised the worker to file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and, if necessary, the local NAACP will hire national NAACP attorneys to work on the case.

While the local branch supports businesses looking to diversify and grow their workforces, Holsey said hate speech appears to be proliferating in the area.

A notion recently floated on social media is that interracial marriage is a sin, he said.

Holsey, originally from Maryland, is the child of an interracial marriage.

“We are not going to stop pursuing these hate groups,” he said.

There are also a number of concerning court cases that the Branch is monitoring, including some involving landlord and tenant disputes.

According to Holsey, a number of cases involve the denial of tenants’ rights, coupled with discriminatory comments posted on social media.

In one case, a landlord tried to hold a tenant of subsidized housing liable for damage caused by an uninvited visitor, Holsey said, with the landlord preparing to evict the tenant and her preschooler. Eventually, the landlord accepted a rental payment, but then sued for the damages.

More generally, the branch has worked within the justice system to help the public defender’s office, which is understaffed and underfunded, compared to the prosecutors’ office, Holsey said.

“Depressing” news

Donna Gority, retired Blair County Commissioner and member of the branch executive committee, is unhappy with the developments that have occupied the chapter since Holsey assumed the presidency.

“It’s very disappointing to me these days that the blatant racism, bullying and the like continues,” Gority said. “People react negatively to someone just because they have a different skin color.”

Gority, who is white, has heard stories of “more than one woman of color” to feel that their every move was being watched by security personnel in the stores.

Those who feel watched by security are “Professionals, very well dressed, not like they need to shoplift to survive,” she says.

The gestures are “so discouraging” she added.

The apparent increase in racist events may represent a “ebb and flow,” Gority said, like sometimes things are hidden “beneath the surface” and sometimes become “more blatant” before hiding again.

Being white, she didn’t see it first hand.

But, one of the benefits of things happening in the open now is that it’s easier to approach them, Gority said. “People can’t deny that’s a problem.”

Nevertheless it is terrible that people “feeling safe doing these behaviors”, she added.

Fortunately, Holsey “don’t take no for an answer” when looking for cures for such behaviors, Gority said.

Holsey responds quickly

For example, Holsey will “law” to school administrators if something goes wrong, including administrators who would rather think nothing is happening, Gority said.

He insists on knowing what they’re going to do, and he’s not shy about offering to help, she says, with some districts being more receptive than others.

In general, Holsey had been “appropriately aggressive or assertive”, she said, and he also turned out to be an excellent administrator.

Call Holsey “very organized” Gority said he uses a Facebook Messenger group that allows all members of the leadership team to follow what others are doing.

He works hard and achieves a lot, and in doing so inspires others on the team to do the same, she said, citing their efforts at a recent gala honoring Witherspoon.

Holsey helped settle the local branch after the deaths of Witherspoon and Virginia Day, another chapter official — and the illness of a third veteran, Gority said.

He worked to get the office “squared at different levels” including support for local business report forms, she said.

He also familiarized himself with the rules and procedures for being in good standing with the NAACP at the national and state level, Gority said.

Holsey has been busy with the community, attending a recent reading honoring black history and helping to sponsor the Central Blair Recreation and Park Commission’s Community Classic Dinner. He is also helping plan the Blair County African American Heritage Festival, to be held in July.

Call Holsey “a nice gentleman” retired pastor Paul Johnson said Holsey is the leader of a “generational change” in the local branch of the NAACP.

He did it all by getting married, graduating from college and earning a military service commission, Gority said.

“I don’t know how he slept” Gority said, noticing in his eyes, Holsey is “surprising.”

The Mirror’s staff writer, William Kibler, is at 814-949-7038.

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