Those hundreds of people, representing the great diversity of our community, who attended the recent Sampson County NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet, probably took away a host of ideas and notions about what they witnessed firsthand at the event. One week out, the positive buzz about the 2016 banquet just won’t let up.
Now, let me personally pay tribute for the banquet’s huge success, in large measure, to the tireless efforts, once again, of co-chair JoAnn Howard. For the past four years, JoAnn has led the group in organizing the banquet and in making our community more responsive and aware of the local NAACP branch’s major annual fundraiser, while extolling its mission and vision at the same time. To be sure, the Freedom Fund Banquet is becoming the place to be each year in early October.
Interestingly, for the last four years, the participation and support from the various sectors of our community life have continually increased, allowing us to become a more united community in our struggle for equality and justice for all in Sampson County. As we become more caring and supportive of each other, getting to know and understand one another, that will help dispel the myths and stereotypes that have been generations in the making. Really, I must say, we seem to be far on our way to realizing that we’re all in this “elevator together,” believing that “the welfare of one group can only be maintained through assuring the welfare of another.”
Just for the record, these words were spoken by the first African American executive director of the national NAACP — James Weldon Johnson.
With that said, let me share with you one of the themes I took away from the 2016 Freedom Fund Banquet, a theme that is as old as our nation itself. As a society, we are still grappling with the all-important job of “bringing up a healthy black child in America,” which means dealing with the peculiar concerns of black children and youth, ranging from developing a strong sense of self and helping them to love their blackness. In short, we are still doing a poor job inculcating these values in our young people which means they are having to figure these things out on their own. Sadly, too many of our children and youth are having a difficult time figuring these things out by themselves.
Educating our youth was part of the central theme of this 2016 Freedom Fund Banquet, and the keynote speaker was the Honorable Paul Hardison. During his remarks to those in attendance, he emphasized that we can all be role models, helping to steer cur youth along the paths to success, while challenging the youth, parents and teachers to step up and take a stand for what is right.
Getting back to making education a priority is still the best way to get ahead. Even in the best of circumstances, our children need love, guidance and support.
Larry Sutton is a retired teacher from Clinton High School.