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At 36, the NAACP Freedom Fund Gala is still stepping out strong

Like a seasoned band still capable of packing the house, the Memphis Branch NAACP drew a sellout crowd to the Memphis Cook Convention Center on Tuesday (March 6) night for 36th Annual NAACP Freedom Fund Gala.

Like a seasoned band still capable of packing the house, the Memphis Branch NAACP drew a sellout crowd to the Memphis Cook Convention Center on Tuesday (March 6) night for 36th Annual NAACP Freedom Fund Gala.

 
Mayor A C Wharton Jr. greets Memphis Branch NAACP Executive Director Madeleine C. Taylor after his keynote address. Wharton said the NAACP was needed to fight for all against injustice. (Photo by Tyrone P. Easley)

 
The melodic sounds of the Charles Pender Trio kicked off the 36th Annual NAACP Freedom Fund Gala on Tuesday.

 
The sellout crowd at the Freedom Fund Gala was laced with community movers and shakers.

 
For many groups, the Freedom Fund gala is an annual affair.

The movers-and-shakers-laced crowd included politicians, businessmen, clergy and other community leaders. Among them was the night’s keynote speaker, Mayor A C Wharton Jr.

 “Develop a civil rights consciousness instead of a civil rights history. Remember the battles we must fight today,” Wharton challenged the crowd.  “Discrimination remains the same. Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination.”

The NAACP Freedom Fund Gala is one of the most important gatherings the city celebrates, said Wharton, who endeavored to put the civil rights movement in context.

“There is a real need for a civil rights consciousness by the souls of black folks and everyday Americans,” said Wharton. “Too many see it only as a movement that started in 1954 and ended in 1968 with Martin King in Memphis.”

In addition to the need for a civil rights consciousness, there is a need for a heightened awareness of the battlefield for that consciousness, said Wharton.

“We’ve gone from can’t vote to won’t vote and from can’t work to won’t work, from no entrance to school to no exit from school,” chided Wharton.

The theme for the event was “Affirming America’s Promise,” which the evening’s program noted was “built on the premise that all persons are ‘created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’”

The Memphis Branch NAACP was touted as having been at the forefront of affirming the nation’s promise since 1917, particularly in areas such as education, economic advancement, social justice, fair housing and political equality of rights of all persons.

“The cause of the NAACP remains the same,” said Wharton. “Somewhere civil rights became too narrowly defined.”

The national organization was founded in 1909 and Memphis Executive Director Madeleine C. Taylor reminded the audience that, “We must continue in this 103-year struggle for injustice.”

Awards and presentations are part of the order of the day at such events. Dr. Warner Dickerson, president of the Memphis Branch NAACP, presented The Distinguished Service Award to co-chairs, Kevin Spiegel, CEO of Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare University Hospital, and Otha Brandon Jr., director of Governmental Affairs for Comcast Cable.

In his acceptance speech, Brandon told the crowd, “Since 1909 the mission of ‘your’ NAACP has remained the same.”

As cited, that mission is this: “To ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination.”

(For more information, contact the Memphis Branch NAACP at 901-521-1343, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

(Dorothy Bracy Alston is a journalist, author, freelance writer and, adjunct English professor. Visit Dorothy’s blog at http://www.CisbaAssociates.blogspot.com; join her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dorothybracyalston, email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 901-570-3923.)

 

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