A recurring question of whether the NAACP is still relevant was answered with a resounding yes Saturday night in the L.H. Jones Auditorium during the 48th Annual Freedom Fund Banquet.
Master of Ceremony Ric Marshall opened the evening by reminding the audience the mission of the NAACP is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and discrimination.
Marshall called attention to ongoing demonstrations in Raleigh known as Moral Mondays where groups of North Carolinians dissatisfied with tax plans, education policies, health care proposals, welfare cuts, environmental deregulation and new voting policies have engaged in acts of civil disobedience such as singing and protesting. He said the Republican and Tea Party legislators have “set us back 50 years” and said the General Assembly is trying to segregate schools by using vouchers and funding changes which will cause the poor as well as African-Americans and Hispanics to suffer.
Branch President Faye Carter reminded the group that if it were not for the grace of God none would be here today and encouraged participants to sit back and enjoy the evening. Surry County NAACP Second Vice President Rodney Rosser next reminded the group of progress made in racial equality.
“One hundred years ago we all would not be sitting in the same room together,” said Rosser noting the diverse group in attendance. “It’s not over. It’s never ending. We need members from the NAACP to become more active, attend meetings and hear crucial information.
State Sen. Earline W. Parmon was direct and simple in describing how important the upcoming legislative battles would become.
“I’ve come to share with you in fellowship but also to remind you freedom ain’t free….somebody has paid,” began Parmon. “We are in times of controversy and moral decay in North Carolina. I came to remind you as a group and as individuals we are in crisis in the state of North Carolina.” Her next series of questions ended with asking if members had ever taken the time to explain to their children about the NAACP.
“We never thought we’d see school segregation returning at a pace we see today,” said Parmon. She then told the group harsh legislation being debated in regards to taxes, educational policies and non-health care program action in addition to restrictive voting guidelines would victimize the poor and disenfranchised and predicted new voter ID regulation would pass.
“We must not wait. We must prepare ourselves,” continued Parmon. “We must become silent about things that matter. I haven’t been arrested yet (for participating in Moral Mondays) but I’m not above it. The point is we’re at a point in North Carolina history where we can be arrested for singing or voting while there are not such restrictions on voting by mail. There is something wrong with that.”
Parmon characterized Republican initiatives in the legislature as the “power of the majority launching a smokescreen of wealth against the working class.” She reminded the group there used to be a middle class in America and said elected officials are not protecting citizens. She then explained how she had been involved with the civil rights movement in the 1960s only to find she is fighting the same war again.
“Why am I here still fighting for the same thing again after we dismantled Jim Crow Laws,” asked Parmon. She told the group the end result of redistricting in the state had diluted black voters influence because of the inability to get legislation to protect their rights passed. She ended by asking the audience members what they are prepared to do to stop a power grab in the state in 2014.
She said vouchers will not help poor children get a good education and said out of 485 private schools in the state 85 percent of their students were from wealthy families. She said that ongoing efforts in the General Assembly would tax prescription drugs and abolish tenure for teachers by 2015.
“It’s not the time to be silent. Where we may feel it’s going to be alright there is no do right in Raleigh. They say they have a mandate to cut cut cut and they are doing that to the least of us. What they do to the least of us most of us will feel it. Ask yourselves are we going forward or backward?”
Reach David Broyles at dbroyles @civitasmedia.com or 719-1952.