The Norfolk NAACP hosted its annual Life Membership and Freedom Fund Luncheon on Saturday, October 17 at the Murray Center. A capacity crowd gathered to help the area’s oldest NAACP branch celebrate its 59th year of civil rights service to the Hampton Roads area. Anita Blanton, Anchor, WAVY-TV 10 News served as the MC.
During the program, the branch presented two scholarships to area college students named for long time working members of the branch, The Melinease Hutchinson Scholarship Award was presented to Kendra Joli Brown, an 18-year-old first year student at Spelman College. It was accepted by her mother.
The James Julian Smith Scholarship Award was presented to De’Ja Rogers, a first year student at Norfolk State University in the DNIMAS honor program.
The luncheon was rescheduled from October 3 as a result of inclement weather. Saturday’s keynote speaker was Brenda H. Andrews, Publisher of the New Journal and Guide, who was originally scheduled as the M.C.. She gave a brief history lesson on the civil rights movement of the 60s before challenging the audience to consider the presence of institutional racism in addressing issues related to the lingering racial disparities in our country.
Andrews spoke of the current civil unrest and demonstrations surrounding racial issues such as the police killing in several high profile cases across the nation of unarmed Black men, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and 12-year-old Tamar Rice in Cleveland.
“These and other racial incidences have shattered illusions that we are living in what many have dubbed a post racial society,” said Andrews.
“What the civil-rights movement of the 60s accomplished was the elimination of legal segregation and overt discrimination. The enactment of laws was a necessary first step toward equality, but it did not make the races equal.
“We confuse the ideal of equality – which we can all agree upon as a great American ideal – with the actual practice and with its reality. America’s dilemma has always been the gap between our lofty profession of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all and the actual conditions of people of color.”
The Norfolk NAACP is headed by Joe Dillard.