About 25 people gathered at Mt. Zion AME Zion Church over the weekend for the first official meeting of the McDowell Justice Coalition.

Created in response to actions by the North Carolina General Assembly on voting rights, education and health care, the group has been in an organizational mode for the past two months.

Decisions made during those organizational meetings included the name and electing officers. Chosen were: Ray McKesson, acting chair; Virginia Woody, secretary; and Stephanie Twitty, treasurer.

The first task of the group is to organize a McDowell County chapter of the NAACP According to a statement released by the MJC, “...race continues to be the forbidden and formidable issue that keeps people from coming together in a spirit of cooperation and harmony. We believe that the formation of a local NAACP is a concrete and substantial step toward facing and resolving the things that cause us to remain separate.”

The North Carolina NAACP has been central to the Moral Monday movement and according to McKesson, “If we are to be beneficiaries of their efforts it is up to us to be owners of the solutions and beginning this membership drive is part of that.”

In order to become a chartered branch of the NAACP, 100 people from McDowell County will have to join and pay the $30 membership fee. Students in the county are also encouraged to join for a fee of $15.

There are currently just under 40 members who have signed up since the MJC membership drive began. The goal for the next month is for each of those who have already joined to sign one other person up for the McDowell County chapter.

Members of the MJC will place membership applications in community barber shops and hair salons as well as in the community’s churches.

The applications are also available by contacting W. Ray McKesson at rmckesson@yahoo.com. The next meeting of the McDowell Justice Coalition will be Saturday, June 7 at 3 p.m. at Mt. Zion AME Zion Church.