“Back to the Basics” was the theme of Saturday evening’s 31st Annual Freedom Fund Banquet, which was held by the NAACP at Corinth Baptist Church.
The mistress of ceremonies for the event was Union County Council member Dora Martin Jennings, and the event was organized by the Rev. Dorothy M. Jeter, Program Chair.
The guest speaker for the banquet was Union native Charles Hughes. Hughes is a motivational speaker/life coach who currently resides in Charlotte with his wife and two children. Hughes has been employed as a corporate trainer for CKE Restaurants for 29 years, overseeing and managing educational and leadership programs.
Hughes began by reciting the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and he discussed how he has come to appreciate the NAACP organization. Hughes officially joined the association on Saturday, and he encouraged those who were present to be proactive in the association’s causes.
“Contrary to the name — National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — it’s for the advancement of ALL people,” Hughes said.
Hughes said he considers the association to be the informer, educator, monitor/overseer and advocate for civil rights for all people, and he applauded its many efforts on the national level including conducting voter registrations, fighting for health care and combating employment discrimination. Hughes also mentioned current struggles such as voter turnout and graduation rate.
“As I think about the challenges that lay ahead, we can’t be satisfied,” Hughes said. “As long as the graduation rate is 54.6 percent for the black male and 75.8 percent for whites and Asians, we can’t be satisfied. Quite often we find out that we fought for the right to sit at the front of the bus, and then our kids are heading to the back of the bus.”
Hughes challenged those in attendance to go “back to the basics.”
“Start sitting at the front of the bus,” Hughes said. “Start sitting at the front of the classroom. Our voter turnout is where we can make an impact and make a difference.”
“There are times we have to ask ourselves when was the last time we got out and voted,” Hughes added. “There is a right. People died for it.”
Hughes then asked those in attendance to close their eyes for reflection.
“Reflect on you, back in the days when you were a kid,” he said. “Where did your mom work? Did she work? Where did your dad work? Did he work? Think about where you lived. Think about your salary. Think about your ability to clothe yourself. What was your education situation? What was it like on your job? What was it like when you went to the store — the mall? How were you treated? What was the status of your church denomination? Were you in church? What was your family situation when it came to dinner? Who sat at the table? Who was at the head of the table? What was it like in your family when it came to prayer? What did you do to help those kids you had that were in school? How were you able to pay for their books and supplies?”
Hughes then asked everyone to open their eyes.
“When you compare where you’ve been to where you are … we have come a long way,” he said. “But we still have a long way to go.”
Hughes went on to discuss the conquering spirit of the civil rights movement, and the energy in the air during that time. He said it was in all communities — though primarily in the black community — because something different was going on.
Hughes gave examples of historical figures who exemplified a conquering spirit — Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Cervera Lipsey, who has been involved with the NAACP since the civil rights movement, also delivered a straight forward message on Saturday, urging those in attendance to be proactive with the association and to get local youth involved.
“Talk to your children,” Lipsey said. “You will reap what you sow.”
Lipsey also quoted Proverbs 22:6.
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Union County Democratic Party Chair Ann Stevens also spoke, pointing out that the party is in dire need of support on the local level.
“Let’s get serious about it,” Stevens said. “Stop sitting on your stool and doing nothing.”
Others who spoke at the event included Mary Browning, the Rev. Charles Jennings, Mayor Ernest Moore of Jonesville, the Rev. Malachi Rodgers, the Rev. James Williams, Julius Tucker, NAACP Branch President James R. Rice and the Rev. Michael A. Glenn.
The local branch of the NAACP meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month at Union Housing Authority, located at 201 Porter St.