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Speakers say NAACP still has important mission

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About 200 people attend 32nd Freedom Fund Banquet in Lancaster

By Jamey Shepherd

Supporting the NAACP was the main topic at the Lancaster Branch of the NAACP’s 32nd annual Freedom Fund Banquet at Lancaster High School on Saturday night.
About 200 people attended.
The Rev. M. Diana Charles, pastor of Rock Hill AME Zion Church in Pageland, was the keynote speaker. She is a retired educator, president of the Cheraw Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and member of the executive board of the S.C. Conference of the NAACP.
“What will it take for the NAACP to survive?” she asked as she began her remarks, which focused on the challenges the organization faces today.
Support from the black community is one thing it needs to survive, she said.
Although the days when black school children were given hand-me-down textbooks from white schools are long gone, as are the days when “whites only” signs were posted in the South, Charles said the NAACP still has an important purpose.
She said too many African-Americans have become apathetic about voting and too many young blacks no longer regard with dignity Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
She complained that President Barack Obama, the first black president in U.S. history, is too often not shown the proper respect a president deserves. She specifically referred to U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson’s  “you lie” outburst while the president was speaking.
“What is happening in the United States is ludicrous,” she said. “I ask you to stand up for our president.”
She said the NAACP still has an important role to play in addressing issues faced by African-Americans, as the fight for equality for African-Americans isn’t over.
“I challenge you to do what you can, while you can, to help the NAACP survive,” Charles said.
She ended her remarks by asking everyone in the audience to become members of the NAACP for $30 a year.
Jessie Shannon, executive committee member of the local NAACP, also encouraged audience members to join the organization. When it was founded by a small group of people more than 100 years ago, it was an integrated organization, she said.
“Can you imagine?” she asked. “More than 100 years ago and it was an integrated organization.”
Shannon said the NAACP still fights for freedom and equality for all, but it also supports local youth programs.
Today, it needs more people to become more active and more vocal in the organization, she said.
The Rev. Wayne Murray, president of the Lancaster Branch of the NAACP, also encouraged non-members to join the organization.
“I’d say nine out of 10 people who look to the NAACP for help are non-members,” he said.
If you’re interested in joining the NAACP, you may send $30 for annual membership dues to: Lancaster NAACP, P.O. Box 666, Lancaster, SC 29721.
Officials speak
Several local officials also made brief remarks at the banquet.
Maj. David Belk of the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office told the crowd that Sheriff Barry Faile has met all but one of the goals he set when he was elected two years ago. The one that remains is state accreditation of the department, and he’s working on that, Belk said.
When Faile seek re-election in 2012, he’ll set a new list of goals, Belk said.
State Rep. Jimmy Neal, D-District 44, told the crowd that lawmakers will face great challenges when the Legislature convenes in January.
“Budgeting is going to be a problem, because we have to deal with so many things that are unknown,” he said.
Dr. Gene Moore, superintendent of the Lancaster County School District, told the crowd that the past budget year was the most challenging he’s faced in his career and the next one looks like it will be a tough one as well.
He also asked people in the audience to set high expectations for young people and help them to understand the value of education. He said schools can only do so much, because students spend the majority of their day out of school.
“We need more people to reinforce what we do in the schools,” Moore said.

Contact news editor Jamey Shepherd  at jshepherd@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1158