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Amherst NAACP Back in Action

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

After years of dormancy, the Amherst branch of the NAACP is being revived.

The chapter will be reactivated at a public meeting scheduled for Monday, Dec. 3, at 6:30 p.m. at the Bangs Community Center in Amherst.

Patrice Woeppel, an activist helping to reestablish the branch, said the group will focus on, among other issues, bringing the community together to work for diversity and equitable opportunity in the local school system. The Amherst area, she added, is not immune to racism. “We’ve got a whole lot of issues,” Woeppel said.

She pointed, by way of example, to the case of Jason Vassell, an African-American UMass student who was charged with aggravated assault after he stabbed two men during an altercation on campus in 2008. Vassell’s supporters said he was defending himself after being assaulted without provocation and taunted with racial slurs by the other men, who were white; they also questioned why one of the men was charged with misdemeanors only, and the other faced no charges. Ultimately, Vassell received probation, with an agreement that the charges against him would be dropped if he complied with the terms of that probation.

While there are 11 NAACP chapters in Massachusetts, only one, the Springfield branch, is in the Western part of the state. While based in Amherst, the newly revived chapter will be open to members from around the region; Woeppel, for instance, lives in Haydenville.

The NAACP was established in 1909 in response to lynching crimes as well as a race-related riot the previous year in Springfield, Ill. Its founders included W.E.B. Du Bois, a native of Great Barrington.•

 

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