The Charleston Branch NAACP September 22 held its annual Freedom Fund Banquet at the Gaillard Center during which it celebrated the branch’s 100th anniversary. The Charleston Branch NAACP was established April 14, 1917, eight years after the founding of the NAACP. The gala recognized the branch’s illustrious history. Former U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden was the keynote speaker.
Nearly 1,000 guests filled the Gaillard Center’s ballroom. Bringing together unmatched fellowship, some of the community’s most noted citizens and civil rights advocates attended. From the youngest to the oldest, the audience offered a picture of the hope and promise fulfilled by the 100-year-old organization. Centenarian Mrs. Earsie Simmons Jackson was crowned the Centennial Queen.
Master of Ceremonies, former S.C. State Rep. Bakari Sellers, introduced speakers who included Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg, S.C. State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, S.C. State Rep. David Mack, III, Boeing CEO for Governmental Affairs Tim Keating and International African American Museum CEO Michael Boulware Moore. After an inspiring solo by local singer Jarrell Smalls, former Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley introduced the keynote speaker.
Biden is who is no stranger to the Charleston community. He served as keynote speaker for the branch’s 2006 freedom fund banquet and returned to the city in 2015 with President Barack Obama after the massacre of nine worshippers at Emanuel AME Church. Biden recalled some significant milestones in the branch’s history.
Just as the parent organization was founded in part as a response to the Springfield, Ill. race riot of 1908, the Charleston Branch was founded to respond to racial discrimination and disparities. Biden noted the branch’s role in South Carolina’s transformational public schools equalization lawsuit that led to 1954 Supreme Court desegregation decision. The branch was integral in the eventual removal of the Confederate Flag from the S.C. Statehouse grounds in 2015, Biden reminded. Though some may ask whether the NAACP still is relevant, Biden said that the August clash in Charlottesville, VA between white supremacists and equal rights advocates, which led to the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, one woman is a clear indication of the NAACP’s continued relevance.
“We needed it in the past and we need it now more than ever,” he said. “I didn’t think we’d have to fight these battles, the same battles, again.” But the hope that springs forth from the NAACP’s activities doesn’t travel alone, it’s accompanied by hate and violence, he said. “The whole world saw the crazed anger in Charlottesville. Once again we are living through a battle for the soul of this nation.”
In her greetings, Branch President Dot Scott said as the state’s oldest NAACP branch, “We feel no ways tired. We’ve come too far from where we started. Be inspired to never give in, never give up and never ever not give all you’ve got in the fight for equality and justice.“