NAACP branch whose leader was harassed elects new president

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont NAACP branch has chosen a new president after the current leader decided to step down, saying she and her family had been racially harassed.

Mia Schultz, of Bennington, will become president Jan. 1 of the civil rights organization’s Rutland-area chapter, New England’s second-largest. She succeeds Tabitha Moore, who had said in September that she and young relatives had experienced months of harassment.

Schultz called the position a “profound honor,” the Rutland Herald reported Wednesday.

“I will be driven by the guidance and the knowledge of Tabitha and the members who have built this organization from the beginning,” she said in a statement last week. “It is a collaborative effort to make a change in our communities and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve.”

Moore had said the decision not to run again was difficult. She described threats and harassment of her and her family, including the vandalism of a lawn display with Black Lives Matter imagery she had created for a celebration in her hometown of Wallingford, she told the Herald.

“It has been an honor to work with an outstanding crew of racial justice advocates and activists over the past five years,” including the year before the organization was chartered, she said in a statement Friday. “Along with so many community partners and leaders who share the vision of a racially just Vermont, we have established a network of anti-racist partners, practices and programming that will continue to serve our most disenfranchised Vermonters.”

Schultz said one reason she ran was that many people in Bennington did not know that the Rutland branch served them.

In the six years Schultz has been in Vermont, Schultz said, she knows of three Black women, including Moore and former state Rep. Kiah Morris, who have moved because of harassment.

“There is a lot of insidious behavior that happens with a smile, I like to say,” she said. “I think we’ve had all across the state, education on microaggressions and things like that. So those small things that may look insignificant and sound insignificant, they accumulate over time and create, especially for kids, a different sense of self.”

More education is needed in Vermont but she said she has hope for the NAACP chapter’s future.

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