The seemingly endless parade of food streaming into the J.J. Jones Alumni Auditorium Friday night was just a hint of the celebration to follow.
And it’s a good thing there was such a grand supply of food, too.
A standing-room-only crowd was on hand for Saturday’s Black and Gold Gala that marked the 50th Anniversary of Surry County Branch 5459 of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Faye Carter, who has served as president of the local chapter for the past four years, said that while things are much better today than they were during the 1960s, there is much more to be done.
“Through all the struggles and issues we’ve faced and had to investigate over the years, we still get complaints and have to follow up on these various issues,” she said.
But those continuing challenges involving both social and racial relations did little to quell the spirit of celebration at the Gala.
Carter said it hasn’t been easy, but the NAACP has survived.
“When I looked and noticed that this was our 50th year, I thought, ‘to God be the glory’,” she said. “With all the racial issues and economic challenges, we’ve survived. It hasn’t been easy, but the NAACP doesn’t stand still. There are challenges before us today, but to look at the 60s, it was much, much worse.”
Carter said that in the 21st Century, it is “appalling” to her that racial issues still exist.
Asked what needed to happen to end racial and social bias, she said it boils down to how people view the world.
“Mindsets need to change,” she said. “Our mission isn’t about skin color, it’s about justice and equality for all persons.”
Prior to the start of Saturday’s celebration, Carter said she estimated that more than 120 tickets had been sold.
“But we prepared for around 200,” she said.
As people started streaming in around 6 p.m., the seats quickly filled up and organizers scrambled to put out more tables.
The band Darryl and Darryl cranked up and entertained the crowd as they sat down.
It was a scene that county resident Vera Reynolds said was a long time coming.
Scanning the room, her pride was evident.
“This means the world to me,” she said, adding that her mother signed her and her siblings up as members of the NAACP while they were children.
“I’ve been a member since 1964,” Reynolds said. “This organization has opened a lot doors for me. It’s shaped my life considerably.
“It’s given me a perspective both of the past and for the future,” she added quietly.
Several candidates for office took time out of their schedules to be on hand for the celebration, including former state Senator and U.S. Congress candidate Tony Foriest, Board of Commissioners candidates Dave Diamont and John Collins, and Register of Deeds Carolyn Comer.
Diamont said as an educator he is familiar with, and admires, the organization.
“I teach U.S. history, so I understand the role of the NAACP in our history,” he said. “Having been in school in Surry County, I’ve lived this and seen how we’ve learned to live and work together so everyone can have the same opportunities.
“Things are better now than they’ve ever been, but every generation, including this one, faces challenges.”
Leona McArthur, a veteran of the 1960s struggle, spoke quietly of that era, echoing Diamont.
“I’m the last living member of the group that founded us here in Surry County,” she said. “There have been big changes, but there is more to be done.”
Asked what the current generation of young people can do to help, she was succinct.
“They can get involved,” she said. “Young people today don’t know what that struggle was like. They need to talk to and get to know the people who went through that struggle and become involved.”
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.