RADFORD – The Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County Branch of the NAACP held its 47th Freedom Fund Banquet on September 23 in the ballroom of the Highlander Hotel and Conference Center at Radford University.
The theme of the banquet was “Moving Forward,” with 175 members and supporters attending and 14 sponsors.
The welcome was given by the Mistress of Ceremonies, Dr. Crasha V. Townsend, Assistant Provost for Diversity and Inclusion at Virginia Tech. Mr. Oliver Lewis led the gathering in singing “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” traditionally called the Negro National Anthem.
NAACP President Deborah H. Travis reminded those gathered of some of the branch’s work in the past year, including voter education and health education. She then introduced the other officers: Dr. Michael Herndon, Vice President; Mrs. Shirley Akers, Secretary; Ms. Shirley Brown, Assistant Secretary; Dr. Jill Stewart, Treasurer; and Mary North, Assistant Treasurer.
Rev. Linda Dickerson of Northside Presbyterian Church offered a memorial tribute to members of the branch who had passed away since the last banquet: Nancy Parrish; Alvin Humes, Past President; Rita Holmes Irvin, Past President; and Kathleen Spencer. Rev. Dickerson then blessed the food as it was served.
After dinner the branch Political Action Chair, Karen Jones, reminded attendees of the multiple voter education opportunities the branch was co-sponsoring with the League of Women Voters for the November elections. She also emphasized the importance of getting out the vote for the many off-year elections held in Virginia.
Melvin Palmer, President of the local NAACP Youth Council played a medley of tunes on the saxophone. Then Youth Council member Kameron Riley recited the Langston Hughes poem “I, Too, Sing America.” Other Youth Council officers are: Rai Johnson, Vice President; Sathara Kane, Secretary; Leila Haley, Assistant Secretary; Addison Clarke, Treasurer; and Meya Haley and Christina Clarke, Historians.
The branch annually awards up to five Samuel H. Clark Scholarships of $2000 to local youth connected with the NAACP who are pursuing post-secondary education. This year’s scholarships went to: Tyler Graves from Blacksburg High School to attend New River Community College; Richard McCrae from Christiansburg High School to attend New River Community College; and Robert McCrae from Christiansburg High School to attend Virginia Tech.
Sponsors of the banquet were then introduced. Silver sponsors were: Asbury United Methodist Church; Blacksburg Jewish Community Center; Carilion Clinic; MOOG, Inc.; the Town of Blacksburg; and Virginia Tech, Office of the President. Bronze sponsors were: Dr. James Klagge and Rev. Kathy Carpenter; Dr. and Mrs. William Hendricks; the Democratic Committee of Montgomery County; Habitat for Humanity of the New River Valley & the Blacksburg Museum; the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County; New River Community College- Office of the President; the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the New River Valley; and the United Auto Workers Local 2069.
Each year at the last 28 banquets the branch has awarded the Nannie B. Hairston Community Service Award to a branch member who has contributed significantly to social justice and civil rights in the New River Valley. The award was presented by Travis, with assistance from the 2021 winner, Dr. Wornie Reed.
This year the award went to Dr. Thomas M. Sherman. Sherman has been a member of the local community since 1971, when he joined the faculty at Virginia Tech. In the School of Education he made significant contributions in the design and development of learning environments, and sound assessment models and strategies. He also provided effective leadership as President of the VT Faculty Senate and as President of the Faculty Senate of Virginia, where he worked to strengthen ties to the Virginia General Assembly and the Virginia Business Council of Higher Education.
For many years Sherman has championed the cause for justice, inclusion, and fairness throughout the community as an individual, but also as a public servant. Sherman served on the Blacksburg Town Council from 2002-2010, where he was instrumental in the preservation of St. Luke and Odd Fellows Hall, built in 1905, a centerpiece of the historical Black New Town community. Through his persistence and help of others the Hall is listed under the National Register of Historic Places. He has also been an advocate for the underserved and minority communities through op-ed pieces in the newspaper and volunteer work in the region.
Sherman, a long-time member of the NAACP, and also winner of the branch’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award in 2006, is married to Janice Sherman and they reside in Blacksburg.
The banquet keynote speaker was Dr. Takiyah Nur Amin, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Virginia Tech College of Architecture, Arts and Design. In 2014, Amin launched her own company, Black Girl Brilliance, offering consulting for academic professionals and support to institutions committed to transformational change in curriculum, policy, and practice. Additionally, she has worked at the intersection of faith and justice-making, as content director and member of the Organizing Collective Board for Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism.
Amin spoke on the topic, “Moving Forward.” The accomplishments of the twentieth century are now under attack and this is no time to be on the sidelines. Her faith leads her to believe in love and the eternal possibility of redemption. While the teaching of racial issues has become controversial, she noted that when she was growing up in Buffalo her family never left it to the schools to teach her all of history. Her parents added their own curriculum: “African consciousness curriculum on Saturdays at the library.” This helped her and her friends to “scheme for, dream for and plan for” their future. She reminded those gathered that “we can’t just be with people who look like us. We have to be concerned with the marginalized as well. We thrive together or not at all. The only place we are going is together.” Every day we see things that cause us despair and things that bring us hope. We have to choose what to focus on. No one’s coming to fix this for us. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
She closed by modifying the famous line from Martin Luther King: “The arc of the universe may bend towards justice, but only because we push it that way!”
The banquet closed with Travis urging those gathered to continue to work together to build a strong community for all.
The branch usually holds its general body meetings on the fourth Sunday of each month at 3:30 p.m. at the Old Hill School Community Center, 570 High Street in Christiansburg. All are welcome. Follow us on line: www.mrfnaacp.org; on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mrfnaacp.org; on Twitter: @mrf_naacp; or contact us by e-mail: email@example.com.
Submitted by the Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County Branch of the NAACP