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The Hardin County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People celebrated a milestone this weekend by calling for unity to tackle social injustices and local needs.
The Hardin County NAACP hosted its 20th annual Freedom Fund Banquet on Saturday at Fort Knox’s Leader’s Club, in which members renewed its purpose in fighting for equality while recognizing with awards those who have played an integral role in its mission.
The theme of the banquet “Moving Forward Uniting Our Community: What is Your Assignment?” was pronounced at each turn as speakers reinforced the need for everyone to play a part in improving the community.
Pamela Harper, mistress of ceremonies, said she was in a room of “king and queens” because everyone in attendance was a member of God’s royal court. She directed the crowd to enjoy the night like royalty and recognize their worth and ability to contribute to the mission of the NAACP.
“My God don’t make any junk,” she said.
Featured speaker Gerald L. Smith, an associate professor of African- American history at the University of Kentucky, congratulated the Hardin County NAACP on 20 years and said the organization has been at the forefront of the civil rights movement and triumphs toward equality over the years.
“From flat broke to Fort Knox,” he said. “You’ve come a long way.”
Smith injected humor into the banquet, telling the crowd he may fall asleep on his speech after such a filling meal. But he primarily focused on history and how far the country has moved since the early part of the 20th century when lynch mobs would hound and terrorize blacks and burn them for amusement.
Smith chronicled several instances in which lynchings took place in Kentucky and said crowds would grow angry if their targets burned too quickly.
The NAACP joined the anti-lynching movement, Smith added, to stave off such repugnant behavior. Smith said the battle was necessary to save the black man’s body and the white man’s soul.
Smith said there were “mountains of despair” to climb, and the NAACP helped to hew a stone of hope.
During darker times, states passed laws to keep desegregation paramount, Smith said, crafting creative means to dehumanize an entire race. Depending on the state, Smith added, whites and blacks could not play a game of checkers or swear on the same color Bible.
Others took segregation so far they claimed they could tell the color of someone’s skin by using senses such as smell, touch and taste or determine if a black person prepared a meal, he said. But as the NAACP battled intolerance, hypocrisy and double standards, Smith said the organization never dwelled on the negative.
“It’s dangerous when you get caught up in the negative,” he said.
He also encouraged the crowd to pursue the seemingly unachievable.
“When you think small, you come up short (in life),” he said. “When you think small, you miss your blessing.”
Smith also decried the “me first” attitude and the desire to be “top dog.”
If you want to move forward, then you must have a degree of unity, he said.
Marcus Ray, president of the Hardin County NAACP, told the crowd the local branch has completed an assessment of need in the community and will approach community leaders to underwrite upcoming projects. Ray said the branch found a need to promote adult and financial literacy and must battle an increasing dropout rate by shoring up the educational gap.
“Our assignment is to partner with local educational institutions to bring the adult literacy to our community,” Ray wrote in a letter to visitors. “Our assignment is to prepare our community for home ownership through partnering with financial institutions to ensure we understand the process for budgeting and purchasing a home and retirement planning. Our assignment is to provide positive role models that our children can emulate.”
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or email@example.com.