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NAACP Harvest Banquet focuses on rights issues

By Hugh Fisher
hfisher@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — In his keynote address to the Salisbury-Rowan Branch NAACP on Friday, James L. Felder urged members and community supporters to stay focused on the struggle for equal rights.
“The NAACP has been and should continue to be an advocate for the poor, the downtrodden and the disenfranchised,” Felder said.
“You would think we had all the problems behind us. And yet, old snakes start raising their heads again.”
He addressed some 200 people at the annual Harvest Banquet, held at the Salisbury Holiday Inn.
Felder said new legislative districts and proposed ID requirements for voters were examples of challenges that remain.
As the annual awards dinner and reception unfolded, some said they were considering joining the NAACP to help address those issues.
Fredricka Valentine, who works in quality assurance for the VA laboratory, said she was interested in becoming a member.
“The inequalities are very striking, not only with the crime rate but the separation of rich and poor,” Valentine said.
She came hoping to hear about the direction of the organization and how the NAACP can impact the county. “What the current projects are, and where they need more emphasis.”
Keith Hart said the annual dinners had been very inspiring.
He and his wife, the Rev. Barbara Hart of First Calvary Baptist Church, came to hear Felder and enjoy fellowship.
Felder said he hoped the event would encourage attendees to stay involved with the NAACP.
“It is still a struggle. It’s more sophisticated now, but it is still a struggle,” Felder said.
Norman said members, legislators and community leaders needed to be aware of issues that could keep minorities from having equal opportunities.
In addition to protecting voting rights, Norman said, everything possible must be done to ensure a quality education.
“Education is civil rights. That’s where we instill the principles that will follow children through their lives,” Norman said.
Although African-Americans are currently represented on the Salisbury City Council and other areas of government, “We’d like to have a member of the NAACP on the economic development commission,” Norman said.
He also said the local NAACP is “on sound footing,” maintaining communication with the nation’s 3,000-plus branches and keeping abreast of issues locally and nationwide.
“We are echoing the theme at the national level,” he said, by focusing on the need to create jobs and reduce the disparity in incomes.
In his remarks, Felder spoke of four influential black and white men who had worked to dismantle segregation and Jim Crow laws in the courts: Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, J. Waties Waring and J.A. Delaney.
He also recounted his experience as a young Army soldier who was one of the detail responsible for accompanying John F. Kennedy’s casket and carrying it at the funeral in Arlington National Cemetery.
Two awards honored influential people for their service to community.
The President’s Award was presented to Anthony Johnson, teacher at Overton Elementary School, “for a diligent commitment to innovative teaching methods.”
Johnson started a band program at the school which within a year, he said, has grown into a 100-piece marching band.
The 2011 Community Service Award was presented to former N.C. Rep. Lorene Coates.
Norman spoke of Coates’ service to her state and her county, especially efforts to have the Interstate 85 bridge over the Yadkin River replaced.
“It has been a true honor to have represented you,” Coates said.
“I was not doing this for Lorene Coates, I was doing this for you.”
Also honored were 18 scholarship recipients from Rowan County high schools.
Norman closed by encouraging the audience to continue the NAACP’s mission, especially by encouraging people to vote in this coming week’s election.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.

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