By Megan Carter –
Attendees at this year’s San Bernardino Branch of the NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner entertained, educated and paid tribute to heroes in education. Opening the program was the Posting of Colors from the Wilmer Amina Carter High School ROTC and leading the pledge was Josiah Kisling, from Hardy Brown College Prep School.
Highlighting the theme, “Education is the Bridge to Success “ those in attendance witnessed awards being presented to an array of local educators and to Trailblazers Frances Grice and Judge Paul Egly, who actually integrated the schools in San Bernardino and thus the rest of the Inland Empire and even Los Angeles. The welcome was from the Greg Akili, NAACP Region 1 Field Director and Councilman Rikke Van Johnson was the emcee.
PHOTO GALLERY: View Photos From The Event Here
Other presentations went to Ebony Shorts, Student of the Year, from San Gorgonio High School, Teacher of the Year, Donald English, from David Stine Chaffey Community Day School, Mariyon Y. Thompson, School Administrator of the Year, principal of Georgia Morris Elementary School in Rialto, Jean Peacock College Administrator of the Year, Cal State University San Bernardino, Joe Paulino, the Classified Employee of the Year, San Bernardino Unified School District, and the President’s Award was presented to educator Elaine Wilson, also employed at Georgia Morris Elementary School but awarded for her work outside of the classroom, teaching pregnant teens. The Institution of the Year went to San Bernardino Valley College and was accepted by Board President James Ramos.
The program was full and rich with culture. From the acceptance speeches to the entertainment with professional guitarist A. Ray Fuller to the outstanding presentation by Kenneth Morris, Executive Director of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation, greatgreat grandson of Booker T.
Washington and great- great- great grandson of Frederick Dougalss. His presentation mixed history from the textbooks with his own family history and pointed out that for both his ancestors and his family education was and is the bridge to success. Frederick Douglass taught himself to read and Booker T. Washington walked 500 miles to attend college. Listening to his presentation of passed down family stories was enlightening. He told the stories of the good the bad and the ugly side of life as is excised in that day and time.
Ray Fuller (the Weeper) was wonderful as he entertained for the evening, he is the protégé of George Duke, jazz musician and has played with some of the greatest entertainers in the business. Also entertaining were students, Jonah Cook who made the audience come up out of their seats with his recitation of great men.
Jhamani Chess knocked them dead with his rendition of I Just Can’t Wait to be King, from the Lion King and singing the song Never Would Have Made It was Andrea Jenkins.
In his acceptance, James Ramos sang a native song in his language adding to the richness of the program’s culture. In his remarks he stated that when other districts were having trouble and teachers were being laid off, San Bernardino Valley College had a plan and no one was laid off and the budget remained strong. Others accepted their award and gave a big thanks to NAACP for recognizing what they do everyday. What they do affects our community, our state and our nation and what they do is important of the future of our world. We as a community are grateful to the educators who shape young lives. After a state conference award was presented to Frances Grice by Woodie Rucker Hughes, Southern California NAACP Chair and Riverside Branch President, it was Frances Grice, founder of one of the oldest and most effective schools, Operation Second Chance, spoke to educators in the room and explained they didn’t get their jobs because they were qualified. There was a lot of sweat and tears that went into making it possible that they could work in the field of teaching. She said she was sick to find out so many teachers don’t like our kids. The room got quiet as she explained what happened that opened up integration in the city schools and how parents had to pull their students out of school to make changes. She spoke of Judge Egly’s plan to make the schools fair for students and she spoke of how her children were not here to witness the results of the efforts of the Mother’s and the Black Father’s organizations. She asked everyone to stay tuned she will have a book telling the history of what happened in San Bernardino around the subject of education.
Pat Small, this year’s dinner chair was pleased with the standing room only crowd and the quality program.
“My only regret was that Judge Egly could not be here to get his flowers,” she said. Invocation was by Pastor Chuck Singleton and Rev. Ray Turner offered the benediction.
The major sponsor was James Ramos, other sponsors were included Southern California Gas, Southern California Edison, and the San Bernardino Economic Development Agency, general sponsors were Greenwood Bail Bonds and New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.
Cheryl Brown is the President of the SB Branch.
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