By Cheryl Brown –
Reflective, respected, resilient and responsible was the theme for this year’s Riverside Branch NAACP 60th Annual Freedom Fund Awards and Scholarship Dinner.
Attendees came from near and far and packed the Riverside Convention Center with over 500 guests eagerly anticipating this year’s honorees.
Community Drum Majors who quietly fight for justice and fairness were honored at the high energy, youth participatory, senior citizen supported event.
The program began with Richard O. Jones opening as the Master of Ceremonies. The Van Horn Youth Center Color Guard and Nadia Bell- Stowers a senior at John W. North High School sang the National Anthem. Songstress Vicki Gantt led the audience in the Negro National Anthem and Bishop Lacy K. Skyes, Jr. prayed over the program, the work of the organization and the meal for the evening. Greg Akili, the NAACP Region I Field Organizer spoke very succinctly as the brought a welcome from the national office and encouragement to continue the work of the Riverside Branch. Then 94-yearold Fannie Bennette brought the house down with her recitation of the parable Rattlesnake and the Hypocrite.
Opera and jazz were featured by ACTSO participants, Nadia Bell-Stowers and Myles Davis, a senior at Redlands East Val ley High School. Along with that entertainment was a jam session with Inward Jazz’s Vaughn Fahie, on tenor sax and joined by one of the honorees, Jim Brennecke on percussion.
Charles and Elaine Bibbs, donated the art work for the awards and Evie Stell and Regina Patton- Stell were in charge of the silent auction.
Urging the audience to get involved and give back former resident now a Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles, Honorable David Cunningham, III son of former Los Angeles Councilman and former resident of Riverside and branch youth council member, spoke about the progress of the 101 year old NAACP and the new Civi l Rights, that of the meaningful education and economic parity and getting rid of poverty in the 21st Century. He said that poverty undermines our freedom. “You have no right to waste your life and no right to go through life and not give back,” he told an excited audience.
Natasha Ferguson and Crystal Davenport presented the awards for a group of outstanding community servants.
As President Waudier “Woodie” Rucker Hughes ended the night she presented the Omar Stratton and the Roy Wilkins Awards. She spoke of Marshall Anderson as a quiet, “get things done without much fanfare” kind of person who has been here all his life working for the betterment of the community not expecting recognition. And the Susan and Jim Brennecke as a power couple getting things done.
Not looking for others to do a task, and that no task is too large or small for them to do. Susan said that she was proud to belong to the organization that has done so much for our country and it is needed until all racism is eliminated in America.
The program ended on the note that America was built on, that is prayer.
Taking the time to call every minister in the room up to the stage to celebrate the National Day of Prayer was Attorney Bill Kennedy of Kennedy and Pancranz law firm who held hands and led the audience in the Lord’s Prayer.
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