The fight continues

County NAACP hosts Freedom Fund and Awards Banquet

Marvene Edwards, an HIV/AIDS activist in Alachua County, accepts the 2013 NAACP Community Service Award.

BRAD McCLENNY/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 2:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 2:14 p.m.

Hilary Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau director and senior vice president for advocacy, delivered the news that a NAACP membership card has its privileges, while also reminding those in attendance that the oldest civil rights organization in the U.S. is still fervently fighting for the rights of all people.

Shelton, keynote speaker at the annual Alachua County branch NAACP Freedom Fund and Awards Banquet, began his speech by talking about how he carries his NAACP membership card in his wallet, similar to how the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. carried his card.

He said on the back of King's card was the home phone number of Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP lead attorney at the time.

"On those rare occasions, that were not all that rare, when he went to jail, when he got that one phone call, he would call Thurgood and say, 'Thurgood, I've gone to jail for my beliefs and it's great for me to do this to show how important these issues are, but it's not good for me to stay here. Can you please come here and bail me out,'" saaid Shelton, as the crowd of more than 300 appointed and elected officials, political candidates, residents, pastors and others broke out in laughter.

In addition to the speech by Shelton, the highlight of the banquet occurred when Gainesville Police Department Chief Tony Jones received the Rev. Dr. Thomas A. Wright Leadership Award and HIV/AIDS community activist Marvene Edwards received the Community Service Award.

"I graciously accept this award this evening, but this is not an accomplishment I did alone," said Jones. "This is an accomplishment we did in the true essence of community policing — that's working with the public."

Edwards said she was glad to receive her award and invited the crowd to join her in being advocates for people living with HIV/AIDS.

"This is an honor because there is a work to be done and it is going to take a village to do the work, and the village is all of us," Edwards said.

During the banquet, county NAACP members Yvette Carter, Charlie Jackson and Jackie Harris were honored for becoming NAACP Silver Lifetime members. Also, Evelyn Foxx, president of the county NAACP, presented Jamal Sowell and the Rev. Willie Caison with President Awards, which are given to members who have done outstanding work for the group. Sowell is first vice president and Caison is second vice president and membership chairman.

"It is good to have three good men standing behind you," said Foxx.

During his speech, Shelton talked about how the NAACP has fought to keep Congress from severely watering down the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the importance of the Affordable Care Act being fully implemented and he also served notice that the Ku Klux Klan is still alive and well.

He said it was the Klan and its supporters who raised the money for the legal defense team that represented George Zimmerman this summer in his trial in the death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford.

He said Sanford is "triangulated by four Klan klavens" that expressed their support for Zimmerman by donating to his legal defense fund.

"I kept wandering how in the world could Zimmerman raise the kind of money he did to pay for that superstar team of defenders," Shelton said. "He utilized that triangulation of those extremists to make sure that the money came in."

While Shelton used his time to talk about how the NAACP has impacted the lives of many and why it is important for the group to continue its work, Caison used his time to recruit new members.

"Just like our theme says 'We Won't be Moved,' we need more members, so don't leave here without filing out the membership application in the back of your program," Caison said.

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