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54 Years of Freedom

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Riverside

By Cheryl Brown


The Riverside Branch of the NAACP held one of their most successful dinners to date in the Music Room of the historic Mission Inn in Riverside. It was so successful that the location had to be changed to accommodate the crowd who requested tickets.

Maybe it was the fact that they had such great awardees, or three major speakers, or the inclusion of a heart wrenching presentation to the mothers of locally murdered youth, or maybe there is a new sense of the importance of the NAACP that brought youth, adults, senior citizens, ministers, community people and businesses to the Mission Inn for the – annual dinner.


Whatever the reason, over three hundred people crowded in the Music Room at the Mission Inn and enjoyed a wonderful meal and program. In fact, the program was so rich that it could have been three or four programs.


Jennifer Vaughn Blakely, was a masterful mistress of ceremonies as she moved the program along. Mark Seay, former NFL star for the San Diego Chargers, spoke of his successes and his failures and how his life was full because of his persistence and his tenacity. He showed a film clip that told his story.


His career was cut short when he took a bullet in the kidney protecting his young niece from a drive-by shooting during her birthday party in Long Beach. He was told he would never be able to fulfill his dream of playing for the NFL but he defied the naysayers and became successful. He admonished the students to never give up and make something out of their life.


In-between each speaker were presentation of awards to community members. The second speaker was Eddie Talbert who produces a television show on Charter Cable, Tha Juke Joint, that showcases local talent. He spoke about the youth and said his emphasis is on education, media resources and mentoring.


Judge Fields was the final speaker bringing to a close a very full program. His address focused on how "You Can Do It" as he spoke about his life, his strict father, loving mother and the things that gave him the success he is enjoying today.


Fields is the first and only Black Judge in the County of Riverside. He was appointed by Governor Gray Davis. Fields said his father thought you could never just sit around. If his dad came home and they were inside they would run outside and begin pulling weeds anything to let him know their time was not being spent idly.


He spoke of his quest for knowledge. Admitting that he was not always fond of studying he said his awakening came when he was challenged by a teacher to study for 15 minuets before returning to school the next day to take a test. He did, and the next day he was surprised when he realized he knew the answers on the test.


"I was amazed. I actually knew the answers," he told the chuckling audience. He found the keys to success and began to study more and more and more. Before long he was finishing high school and on his way to college. School was not difficult because he prepared for it.


A presentation that left no dry eyes was to the mothers of slain children: Anthony Sweat, Markess Lancaster, Dane Cox and Tory Howe-Lynch. The pain of their loss was worn on their faces as they tried to compose themselves to speak. They each said we must do something to stop the violence. Unveiled for emphasis was a beautiful painting of their four murdered sons.

Other awardees included:

Community Activism, PASTOR RICHARD RIOS/RUBEN GUITRON and Community Alliance Network Rehabilitation Committee;

Education, CHUCK MOORE - Cal State Fullerton;

Law Enforcement JOANNE GORDON - Warden, CRC;

Religious Achievement, MORENO VALLEY STUDY GROUP and PASTOR JESSE WILSON - Kansas Avenue SDA Church;

Corporate Achievement, RON HULEY - Boss Dawg Barbeque;

Young Adult, NAAEM NEWMAN/LYDELL TURNER/LAURHAN BEATO;

and President Award, DALE KINNEAR – Principal North High School

NAACP President Rucker-Hughes was very pleased with this year’s event and said planning for next year begins next month.

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