The Flagler County NAACP held a black-tie Freedom Fund Dinner that it sponsored to show support for the NAACP’s Washington bureau. It was a “bling-bling” affair attended by almost 200 guests at the elegant Hammock Beach Resort and developing the strategy laid out by Leon W. Russell, vice chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors.
Master of Ceremonies John Winston, Flagler NAACP at-large committee member, made sure everything was played out for showcasing the evening, chaired by Marie Winston-McCray.
The golden evening was Saturday, accompanying music by Elite for dancing.
Arrangement of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” was accomplished by soloist Denise Rose. The setup gave way for edibles of braised short rib with herb marinated shrimp, or short rib with bronzed chicken breast. A branch-sponsored drawing of a cruise was raffled.
Branch President Linda Sharpe Haywood said, in her “We Will Not Be Moved!” speech, that “we cannot continue to permit our children to be removed from classrooms in handcuffs and sent into the criminal justice system. We cannot allow the disparate treatment of our youth to influence their future in the most negative way imaginable.
“Freedom means having the ability to move throughout our communities without the shackles of oppression, mis-education, unemployment, and violence,” asserted Haywood.
“We are on the precipice, looking down at those freedoms we have taken for granted over the last five decades as they slowly but surely fall and disintegrate into a wasteland,” insisted Haywood.
The battle for equality relayed to Russell, retired Pinellas County Director, Office of Human Rights of Clearwater. He is a former Florida State Conference president, and chairman of the Floridians Representing Equity and Equality (FREE), a statewide coalition for opposing the Florida Civil Rights Initiative, written by Ward Connerly for eliminating Affirmative Action.
Russell crystallized what is needed, what is believed to be important as the next game changers for going forward and making things better for America.
The new generation of entrepreneurs must be inspired and invested in so they will not leave, said Russell. “If there are barriers, then it is up to you at this lavish event to continue to ‘kick’ the doors open so the new generation can take the opportunities of owning and building “something.”
Russell said, “The fight for educational equity is a never-ending fact. We need to understand that as long as there is an achievement gap anywhere in our educational system, we have an obligation to close the gap.”
He stressed the need to stop tearing down teachers, knowing the sacrifices they have made. And the “charter programs will only serve a very, very minor percent of the school population that has to be served,” he said.
And so, “We have got to go back and insure that public education is fully supported in this nation and in this state,” said Russell.
The vice chairman sees where the charter schools having “10 kids” are doing outstanding.’’
He said, “But the fact is that public education has a whole lot more kids and they need the resources that we provide to them; they don’t need to be deflected…”
It is needed to “create an environment that creates an educational will amongst our children,” said Russell, understanding that education is the pathway, and it is necessary to have safe schools.
“In this county, from the 6,000 public schoolchildren, 80 percent of them are being parented by grandparents.” Russell stated. Noting that some of the attendees have grandchildren, he added, “I hope that your face is as familiar in the school as it is at the NAACP.’’
“The most abominable violation of anyone’s civil rights is for that individual to die because of something that could have been prevented.’’ Russell stated.
Regarding “equitable health care, that means you get the same type of treatment on both sides of the track – on the northside and the southside – on the east and the west, that health care does not change because of the complexion that walks through the door, or the complexion of the person providing the service on the other side of the door,” affirmed Russell. “That’s what we have to fight for.”
Criminal and juvenile justice
“We have to insure, in fact, that law enforcement carries out its responsibilities in ways that do not change because of the economics of the individuals involved, and by creating an environment that says violence is unacceptable because violence in our community is often committed by folks that look like us,’’ said Russell.
“We will support law enforcement, and we understand we have an obligation to preserve the lives and livelihoods of everyone in our community,” Russell maintained.
Moreover, he stated that “we cannot allow our children to be placed in a court system, which appears non-threatening, but which, in fact, creates for them a record that will prove to create barriers for the rest of their lives. We have an obligation to stand up against that. We have an obligation to be guardians ad litem…”
Russell told the guests that they have to be participatory by opening their churches; they have to create the tutorial programs, the after-school programs, and provide the alternatives to the street, the alternatives that create a place where children learn to be children and not criminals.
“That’s how we change our communities,” he said.
As always, remember our prayers for the sick, afflicted and bereaved.