At NAACP banquet, a call to continuing action for justice
SALISBURY — With a focus on the future, members and friends of the Salisbury-Rowan Chapter of the NAACP gathered Saturday for the 19th annual Harvest Banquet.
The event, held at the Event Center at Livingstone College, took for its theme the rallying cries of recent Moral Monday protests: “We shall not be moved. Forward together, not one step back!”
Scott Teamer, president of the local NAACP, said the event was a chance for the African-American community to take responsibility and plan for a brighter future.
“Things are getting out of control,” Teamer said to the audience.
“Our ancestors helped build this country,” Teamer said, and as the heirs to their struggle, he said it falls to the current generation “to be vanguards of the community,” and to reach out to youth.
Guests included the Rev. Kojo Nantambu, president of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch of the NAACP, and keynote speaker the Rev. Dr. Calvin Miller, presiding elder of the Winston-Salem District of the AME Zion Church.
Mayor Paul Woodson, Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell and City Manager Doug Paris were among the representatives from the city of Salisbury present at the banquet.
Blackwell said attending the annual Harvest Banquet “is always a pleasure and an honor.”
And the timing, Blackwell said, was significant, as the world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, who fought for racial equality in South Africa.
Numerous pastors and representatives from local churches were also in attendance.
At this year’s 19th annual event, local NAACP branch treasurer Catherine Rivens said, the goal is to make the public aware of the organization’s impact in the community.
“We hope (guests) leave with a desire to be an active part of the NAACP,” Rivens said.
Nantambu took to the podium and spoke of decisions that have sparked protests in Raleigh and around North Carolina.
“We have seen the light of day, and we know what’s going on in the General Assembly,” Nantambu said. “We know what’s going on in Congress, we know what’s going on in this country.”
He encouraged those present not only to stay active in the organization, but to participate in protest actions – including a planned Dec. 23 Moral Monday march in Raleigh asking Gov. Pat McCrory to recall the General Assembly.
Nantambu said NAACP leaders and other have presented a petition asking McCrory to “rescind all of those draconian, oppressive and repressive bills” – specifically, cuts to Medicaid and Head Start programs.
Nantambu said he hopes 40,000 will attend.
“It is time for us to get up, stand up and fight to overcome racism and classism,” Nantambu said.
Teamer introduced several Livingstone College students, including student body president Shari Albury and Mr. and Miss Livingstone, Hillman Evans IV and Anna Kay Edwards.
Teamer said the community needs to reach out to the new generation in order to fight injustice.
“They’re our leaders, and they’re fearless,” Teamer said. “We thank God for them.”
In his keynote address, Miller compared the current struggle to the wandering of the people of Israel before they found the Promised Land.
He called to mind Booker T. Washington and other African-American leaders who rose from humble beginnings to accomplish great things.
Miller said there are many who endure the pain of ongoing violence, police brutality and poverty.
“Even though many of us eat well every day, North Carolina has children who are still hungry, and we must do something about that,” Miller said.
And, although Moses did not go to the Promised Land, Miller said, he wanted the people of Israel to remember the trials and the tribulations they had faced.
Likewise, Miller said, “Some of us want to forget, and not tell our children how hard we had it ... but I refuse to forget.”
He recalled the days in which he grew up, before integration, as well as sit-ins and marches in Rowan County.
And he called on people of faith to not give up preaching the truth, and remembering the past. “I’m here today to tell you, we can celebrate tonight because when we were out in the cotton fields, God brought us into the big house,” Miller said.
America enjoys freedom today, Miller said, because of the struggle of others who fought for that freedom.
“And we can’t let nobody forget our blood, our sweat and our tears,” Miller said. “We ought to celebrate tonight, we ought to forget our differences.”
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.