The recently-elected president of the NAACP-Culpeper Branch 7058 has a vision to ensure a society in which all people have equal rights without discrimination based on race. Dr. Uzziah (pronounced you-zie-uh) Harris began his two-year term for the organization that serves the Culpeper, Madison and Rappahannock area on Jan. 1.
Harris, 44, said building bridges is the most important aspect of the NAACP’s mission. This will be the focus of his presidency and he looks forward to setting the standard and being an example.
He moved to Culpeper in 2017 and was the NAACP’s vice president until previous president Sandra Reaves Yates stepped down and encouraged him to run for the position. He is employed as an English teacher at Floyd T. Binns Middle School.
For 20 years before arriving in Culpeper, Harris lived in Richmond, where he served as educational chair of the city’s NAACP.
Harris met his wife, who is a longtime friend of his sister, in Culpeper. A blended family, Harris and his wife have two children who graduated from Eastern View High School. Their daughter, Brianna, attends Mary Washington and son, Elijah, is a Hampton University student.
Not wanting to lump everyone in one category, Harris paused upon beginning to describe what he feels is the local Black community’s biggest struggle
“Black people in this community do not exist monolithically any more than any other group of people,” he said. “The problems we face in Culpeper are no different than what is faced across the nation and in the world – one of history and diversity.”
What the Black community wants, he said, is “the same opportunities that are due to all of us as the laws indicate.”
“That’s our fight. We still suffer huge disparities as they relate to health, education, employment... things that affect our community every day,” Harris said.
He added that everyone suffers the effects of social racism and “that moral stain does not go unrequited.”
“I believe we are getting there though,” Harris said.
He explained that the NAACP is trying to push the idea that discrimination and racism is a public health concern.
“All of us come to the table with biases - that’s not the issue. You can overcome those things. When you look at a system that is bent against or for certain groups of people, there is a problem there. This affects everyone and everything. This can create barriers. When you label it - discrimination and racism - as a health crisis, you can quantify it.”
Harris said the previous NAACP administration “opened the door for us to see a lot of volatile issues that were left undone by the administration before them.”
“Now that everything is on the table and in the open. Where do we go and how do we heal? We are in a community that became comfortable working in a certain way. How do you have a town that meets the needs and reflects values of this now diverse population? This is a great challenge...How we do this will go a long way to shaping the world our children will live in,” he said.
Harris was named after his dad, Tony Avon Harris, but decided to change his name in 2008 while facing personal struggles in his faith. Uzziah, which means “God is my strength,” reminds him that “we have to plug in to the right source to get the power.”
A member of Unity Baptist Church, Harris also serves as assistant pastor there.
“I can wear a lot of hats in this world, and I do, it’s what I do. But a disciple of Christ is who I am. It’s my faith that is the common reassurance; that there is a God that is bigger than all of it,” Harris said.
He invites anyone to partner with NAACP regardless of color, party or ideation.
“It’s not just a Black thing. There are a number of different communities that NAACP serves that have been discriminated against,” Harris said.
The NAACP meets every third Thursday and people can attend virtually by visiting naacpculpeper.org or the NAACP-Culpeper Branch 7058 Facebook page.