The NAACP Statesville Branch 89th annual Freedom Fund and Awards Celebration was a chance for the organization to gather for the first time since 2019 to celebrate the shared goals of its members.
But with its theme of “Know the past — shape the future,” the goal of fighting for social justice and doing so with strength in numbers hadn’t been lost in the years since their last full gathering.
Keynote speaker Cheri Beasley said as much in her remarks by noting that despite what is often said, everything in life is political and the NAACP can make sure the shared concerns of Black people are addressed.
“It is, we have found strength in voting, found strength in electing people who share our values, we have found strength in taking litigation to our courts to seek justice. We cannot stop doing that,” Beasley said. “It is important, however, to know that as we have young people coming along that are engaged and excited about being active, that we may do things a little differently.
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“But when so many of our foundational rights are at stake, we can’t relent. We really must stay the course.”
The former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and Democratic nominee in 2022 for one of North Carolina’s U.S. Senate seats spoke of her experiences in politics and of her last campaign where she felt she lost an election she could have won.
However, she said, while gerrymandering and voter ID laws have made voting harder for Black people in North Carolina and around the country, Beasley’s message was one that confronted the challenges they face while offering a reminder that there is strength in organizing their efforts to take on those challenges.
One of those challenges includes engaging younger voters, but she said it isn’t due to a lack of awareness from the younger generations.
“People get it, they wonderfully diagnose what is happening in our communities and I don’t think the issue is lecturing them. It means all of us have to come together. That means respecting the intellect of young people and seeing they do things quite creatively, differently, and really seeing that together we’re electing the people that really represent our values. “
The night wasn’t all speeches and politics, however, as a number of scholarships and awards were handed out by the organization.
Those include Adamma Anukwuem of South Iredell High School, Alana Blair-Barnes of Statesville High School, and Halee Thomas of Statesville High School as the NAACP awarded them scholarships.
For the organization’s awards, a life membership plaque was given to Patricia Dobbins, the Woody Woodard “Stick and Stay” Award went to Debra Moore for her voter registration efforts, and the Wilson W. Lee “You Can Make a Difference” Award went to NAACP Second Vice President Doug Hendrix for following Lee’s example.