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Inequality in education a focus at NAACP banquet

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By Johnathan Ryan

KERSHAW – Black children still struggle for equal educational opportunity in South Carolina, said  Dr. Lonnie Randolph Jr., president of the NAACP’s State Conference, at the Kershaw NAACP’s annual banquet Saturday night.

Randolph recalled his last visit to Kershaw for the NAACP’s banquet two years ago.

“The same struggles we had in 2006, we still have today,” he said.

Randolph discussed the education equality lawsuit that has been in the court system for 15 years. He said the General Assembly has spent millions to fight it.

Randolph said the vast majority of the public schools found within the 36 school districts along South Carolina’s Interstate 95 corridor – an area that’s been called “the corridor of shame” – are attended by poor students, most of whom are black. They face amazing obstacles to getting a good education, Randolph said.

“But we don’t need a court decision to adequately fund the schools,” he said. “All we really need is a General Assembly that will.”

He criticized the S.C. Board of Education for disapproving of a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would require a higher standard of education for all residents, changing the wording from “minimally adequate” as placed in 1895 to “high quality.”

“We wouldn’t build football stadiums in this state that are minimally adequate,” Randolph said. “We wouldn’t have an 80,000-, 90,000-person stadium just holding 2,000.”

Randolph asked the crowd to be responsible parents and make their children go to school and take challenging classes. On the issue of personal responsibility, he asked the attendees to use their brains and not be “powerless by choice.”

Another top priority should be voting, Randolph told the crowd. He told the crowd to hold politicians accountable with their votes.

Randolph said he isn’t caught up in “Hillary mania” or “Obama mania” but rather “issue mania.” He asked the crowd to learn the issues, take positions on them and then question all candidates about their positions. If a candidate’s position doesn’t align with theirs on an issue, then don’t vote for them, Randolph said.

After the speech, Kershaw NAACP member Richard Gladden agreed that Randolph had the priorities straight. He said young people need to go to school and stay there.

Randolph’s message on education came through to Lancaster NAACP board member Rachel Barnes. She talked about the new program at Living Word Church of Lancaster to get youth who have dropped out or been expelled on a path to reintegrate them into the educational system.

“We’re saving young people,” Barnes said. “They deserve a second chance.”

The banquet ended with an appeal for new members and the song, “We Shall Overcome.”

“The struggle has just begun and we need to do what is right,” said the Reverend T. Duncan, Kershaw NAACP board member.

The NAACP represents the best interests of all of America, he said.