LAURINBURG —The executive director of the North Carolina NAACP told members of the Scotland County NAACP branch to it is time to get serious about social injustice.
“This is not a time for foolishness,” Michelle Laws told the 100 or so people attending Sunday’s 40th Annual Freedom Fund banquet.
Laws spoke about police brutality and how many people have become apathetic. She pointed to state legislators’ denial of available federal Medicaid benefits from their constituent as a contemporary form of social injustice. The right to vote, Laws said, is also under attack.
“They are going after our most sacred right, our right to vote, and there is an intricate connection between voting and power,” the Chapel Hill native said. “We can not afford to sit out of any of the upcoming elections — this is an election year in 2016 that is probably going to be one of the most important ones.”
She recommended people attend any government meetings they can, even on the local level.
“We’ve been working in partnership with Democracy North Carolina and we’re releasing our comprehensive litigation plan to our branches, please use it,” she said, referring to “get out the vote” efforts backed by the organization statewide. “Add to it if you need to because you know what works in your community.”
The civil rights leader also alluded to pervasive prejudices that continue to plague people of color, such as inequities in obtaining home mortgages and other loans and employment.
“We have to stop buying into the notion that the population just needs to work harder,” she said. “We should be talking about all humanity and I agree wholeheartedly, but there are some things that deserve attention and effort and they happen to deal with how black lives are being destroyed.”
Laws charged youth with the future of the social justice movement, recommending the use of education to fight for social justice and informing them that “you are the leaders that you’re waiting for.”
Laws reminded the audience of an old African proverb — until the lion tells his own story of being hunted, history will always glorify the hunter. Meaning until the youth know their history, they will believe the lies they are told, she explained.
“There are ongoing, repeated attacks against black bodies, specifically our black youth,” she said. “This is not a respite hour, this is not a time for dormancy or a time for retreat or turning back — now, unlike ever before, it is a time for us to suit up fighting for social justice and it is indeed no time for foolishness.”
Also on Sunday, the Scotland NAACP branch awarded the Flowers-Speller-Kelley Scholarship to NAACP Youth Council member Octavia McLean.
“Ms. Flowers was blind, but she had more vision than a lot of people with sight and Pastor Kelley brought the spiritual message and led us in many ways and Speller was an educator,” said youth advisor Rena McNeil, who presented McLean with the scholarship.
The organization also recognized NAACP Mother of the Year Barbara Kelly of Jones Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Laurinburg.
Members of the NAACP youth group gave a synopsis of an significant African-American historical figure. The students described individuals from poet Phillis Wheatley to President Barack Obama. The purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate leaders who, “in the midst of the struggle, could overcome.”
“It’s so powerful that they came and they gave us pieces of our history,” Laws said.
The event was also attended by elected officials U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, state Rep. Garland Pierce, county commissioners John Alford and Betty Blue Gholston, school board member Darrel Gibson, City Councilman Curtis Leak and Mayor-elect Matthew Block.
“We are grateful to the leaders and members of the community who joined as we celebrated our 40th Freedom Fund Banquet,” said Herman Tyson, president of the Scotland County NAACP. “It is important that we have those partnerships as we strive to move forward to make Scotland County, North Carolina and the United States a better place.”
Abby Hackmann can be reached at 910-506-3171.