A 2014 call to action reverberated through the Cook Convention during the 38th annual Freedom Fund Gala hosted by the Memphis Branch NAACP.
"We all have an obligation to give back. There is more that can be done. Get involved," said keynote speaker Dr. Sampson Davis. "We have to heal ourselves from the inside out."
A physician, author and founder of The Three Doctors Foundation, Dr. Davis' notoriety rocketed after a visit to the "Oprah Winfrey Show" with his two childhood friends, who made a pact to become doctors.
During the gala last Thursday, Davis discussed numerous topics that he sees as issues in the African-American community.
"Sustainable wealth is an issue for people of color. Payday loans are everywhere in our community but financial literacy is not," he said.
Picking up on the theme of getting involved and giving back, Davis said he is driven to work in the community because he believes "to whom much is given much is required."
He shared his personal story of a being boy from a rough neighborhood who was in trouble with the law at an early age but went on to become a doctor/author and so much more. He attributes his success to mentors and his two closets friends.
"When you hang out with the right people the smartness rubs off," he said. "When you hang out with the wrong crowd the bad stuff rubs off."
Children today have so many obstacles to overcome, he said.
"Showing your academic excellence is (considered) something to be ashamed of in most communities," said Davis. "Young people need to know that education is cool."
Gloria Sweet Love, president of the Tennessee Conference of NAACP branches, earlier issued her own call to action, drawing a roaring round of applause and a standing ovation.
"We each have to get on the phone and call Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker (both of Tennessee) and help restore the Voter Rights Act," said Love. "Freedom is still not free!"
The co-chairmen for this year's Freedom Fund gala were Daniel J. Weickenand, president/CEO of Orion Federal Credit Union and Reginald W. Coopwood, M.D., president and CEO of Regional One Health, formerly The MED. The well-attended event drew praise from attendees such as Shelby County General Sessions Court Judge Loyce Lambert-Ryan, who said, "This year's freedom fund banquet was extravagant as ever and a wonderful gala for a good cause."
While the relevance of the NAACP is debated in some quarters, the organization's relevancy was not an uncertainty for those attending, many openly embracing the image of the group as the nation's "premier civil rights organization."
"We still have to be focused on major issues of injustice," said Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy. "We have to address issues such as Voter ID laws, predatory lending, mortgage redlining, and many more. The struggle for justice is not over."
Michael Adrian Davis of Clear Channel Media & Entertainment Hallelujah 95.7 was this year's Master of Ceremonies. With his witty transitions and knowledgeable inserts, the program ran smoothly and efficiently.
Justin Merrick opened the evening with beautiful renditions of "The Star Spangled Banner" and Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing."