Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

NAACP Focus Unchanged by Election Healing after the Contentious Presidential Election Should Not Supersede Priorities

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

NAACP Focus Unchanged by Election Healing after the Contentious Presidential Election Should Not Supersede Priorities

Article excerpt

State NAACP President Burrell Brown foresees a potential dark cloud hovering over the talk of healing following this year's divisive presidential election.

While politicians talk of extending the olive branch, Brown is troubled that a focus on healing could banish other important concerns to the back burner.

"We cannot let the election results change our focus. Our focus is on education, health care and employment. Those [issues] did not change because of the election. We have to be sure those issues don't get swept under the rug in any attempt at providing healing," Brown said, speaking a month after the Washington branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was host to the group's 70th annual state convention.

This was the third time the Washington branch played host. It did so in 1964 and in 1990. This year drew 138 registered participants.

While Brown fears the nation's attention may be diverted from those issues, he and the Rev. Henry M. Billingsley, Washington branch president, intend to focus on issues the veteran civil rights organization traditionally has championed.

The convention, through a series of workshops and data, highlighted areas where attention needs to be directed. Clearly, low test scores among African American students, health care issues and a jobless rate twice that of whites cannot be ignored, Brown and Billingsley agreed.

A report compiled by the NAACP from data obtained from the No Child Left Act shows African American children in the fourth grade are twice as likely not to be reading at the same level as their white counterparts. Sixty percent of black fourth-graders are not performing at the same level with regard to math.

Billingsley sees evidence of low test scores in Washington and wants to engage parents so they know the importance of getting involved in their children's schools. He supports programs that would improve academic achievement and impress upon students the importance of education.

Brown agrees there needs to be meaningful conversation between educators, the community and government about how to resolve the black-white academic divide.

As far as health care is concerned, Billingsley was dismayed to learn black men 50 and older are three times more likely to have prostate cancer go unchecked. Black women are 60 percent more likely than their white counterparts to suffer hypertension.

Billingsley said it's important to get the word out to churches and community groups that early detection is key to thwarting health problems. He believes the NAACP can play a role by informing churches and social groups, which in turn can alert members about the importance of regular checkups.

He also expressed concern about the state's unemployment figures, which entail two components. …

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