NAACP to hold annual awareness banquet


By Corey Davis
Staff Writer

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Rocky Mount branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is set to hold the organization’s annual event aimed to keep the community aware of pressing social, political and civil issues, while also recognizing several local minority trailblazers who have made a positive difference in the community within the areas of civil rights and civic engagement.

Andre Knight, president of the Rocky Mount NAACP branch, said the annual Freedom Fund Banquet also will incorporate the local branch’s combine the traditional Image Awards. While the event generally has been held at the Imperial Centre for the Arts & Sciences, this year it has been moved to accommodate an anticipated larger crowd at Greater Joy Baptist Church on Nashville Road.

The program is from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Saturday. A reception in Greater Joy’s fellowship hall will take place before the event starting at 4:30 p.m. The Rocky Mount NAACP event will feature guest speaker, the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP.

Though Knight said the NAACP is a nonpartisan organization and unaffiliated with any major political parties, the longtime civil rights organization understands there are some serious political issues affecting blacks or people of color.

Knight said Barber will touch on how voting rights activist groups such as the state NAACP fought the controversial North Carolina photo identification law spearheaded by North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature, which eventually was struck down this summer by a unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Knight also addressed how the North Carolina Republican Party sent an email to Republican board of elections appointees, urging them to make "party line changes to early voting" by limiting hours, Sunday voting, and available polling stations in precincts known to vote Democrat.

Locally, after temporarily moving the voting site to St. Paul Methodist Church on Bethlehem Road in the far north-western boundary line of the precinct, the Republican-controlled Nash County Board of Elections decided not to move the voting location back to the newly-renovated South Rocky Mount Community Center in the center of the precinct where it has been for years.

Knight said these types of issues tend to affect the poor and working class the most.

“Rev. Barber is coming to address our community about the important topics going on in our nation,” Knight said. “We know this is a very crucial year in our nation and in our state. We know North Carolina is a very pivotal state in this election. We have aggressive laws that have been passed to try to disenfranchise minorities and people of color to vote.”

Knight said he expects the event to draw a huge audience because people are well-aware of the social issues taking place.

“People are informed about what’s going on, especially with the tragedies that have gone on across the country of the treatment of black men,” he said. “One of the main things we advocate against is police brutality. When people say black lives matter, people get that confused because you have a history of oppression and discrimination against certain people. That’s why people shouldn’t minimize black lives matter.”

In addition to the upcoming local NAACP event, the Rocky Mount Racial Justice Group, a local activist group unaffiliated with the NAACP, will hold a “Black Lives Matter” forum and film-showing from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Powers Recital Hall in the Dunn Center on the campus of N.C. Wesleyan College.

The event will feature a movie showing of the newly released film Netflix documentary “13th.” The film is titled after the 13th Amendment in the United States Constitution, which outlawed slavery unless as punishment for a crime. 

The documentary argues that slavery is being effectively perpetuated through mass incarceration. Chip Smith, organizer of the Rocky Mount Racial Justice Group, said a list of hot-button local issues the group will discuss to the audiences, includes economic disparity between Nash and Edgecombe Counties, school to prison pipeline, school re-segregation attempt, voter suppression, under-the-radar police harassment, immigrant experience and the result of Princeville again being flooded because of the Tar River barriers.