MANSFIELD — The Mansfield Unit of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) hosted its 35th Annual Life Membership Banquet to honor new and existing Life Members of the historic civil rights organization.

The evening was opened by Winston Greene, who led the crowd in singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Often referred to as the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is a hymn written as a poem by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson in 1900.

This song represents the promise of freedom and justice, and was adopted in 1919 by the national NAACP. It was prominently used as a rallying cry during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

The theme for the evening, “Still Fighting for Justice, Become a Member and Join the Team,” was echoed in the rousing invocation given by Reverend Jameelah O’Neal, who exhorted attendees to get involved in their local organization and the events that are happening around the country.

Mistress of Ceremonies for the banquet was Mrs. Shirley Jordan, Co-Pastor of the Oasis of Love Church. The evening was planned by the Life Membership Banquet Committee and Chairperson, Mrs. Betty Palmer-Harris, a Golden Life Member who was later thanked by President Leonard Dillon Jr., for her 30 years of service to the local unit.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Victor J. Coleman Jr., delivered a powerful message recounting his story of overcoming low self-esteem, poverty, and lack of educational success to earn a Ph.D. in business management, specializing in leadership.

Challenging the crowd to “put yourself aside, get free of what’s holding you back and get beyond just enough,” Coleman told an emotional story about hearing his son call him “Dr. Coleman” and recognizing the impact that his success was having on his own children and helping him to understand the effect he could have on others. He also implored the crowd to get involved in membership and actively participate.

During the evening several members were recognized, including new Sliver Life Members Mr. Dennis Baker, Rev. Ronald Moton Sr., Rev Dr. Lawrence Rawls, and Angela Brooks Wright. Mrs. Cynthia A. Daley, Mansfield NAACP treasurer, received the Ernestine Jefferson Award, and Mrs. Alverta Williams was awarded the prize named after deceased Civil Rights Activist and Freedom Fighter, Mr. Wayne McDowell.

Dinner was provided by Rev. Ronald Moton Sr., the “King of Ribs Catering.” Praise dancer and mime Amber Stanford entertained the crowd with a moving interpretive dance. The evening was closed by NAACP President Leonard Dillion, Jr., who encouraged those in attendance to join in the work of the local group and help in their fight for justice.

The Mansfield NAACP continues to fight for justice. Membership is the lifeblood of the organization, and we are still seeking community members to become involved by becoming a General Member ($30 annually) or Life Member (starting at $75 annual for adult membership).

To get involved in the NAACP call 419-522-9894. 

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