In 1909, to respond to the wave of lynching in the Jim Crow era that followed the end of Post-Civil War Reconstruction, a group of white, black and Jewish citizens came together to form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people – our nation’s oldest, most enduring and most respected civil rights organization.
That movement spread to Charleston, South Carolina in 1917, when Edwin Harleston and an equally diverse group of Charlestonians came together to establish the Charleston Branch of the NAACP – the oldest, most diverse and still one of the largest and most effective Branches in the State of South Carolina.
The Charleston Branch, under the leadership of Branch President Dot. S. Scott, celebrated that history and the role of African-Americans and Jews in that history at the Branch’s 101st Freedom Fund Gala at Charleston’s Gaillard Center on Saturday, November 3rd. The Freedom Fund Gala serves to celebrate the work of the NAACP and to raise funds for the organization. This year’s Gala was a well attended and resounding success.
Following the Procession to the strains of Ray Charles’ rendition of “America The Beautiful,” Miss Mia Eberhart, an eighth grade student at Camp Road Middle School on James Island, gave the opening remarks and presented the Master of Ceremonies for the Evening. The Master of Ceremonies was Mr. Jamie Harrison, Associate Chairperson and Counselor for the National Democratic Party.
The Gala, which celebrated the NAACP’s African-American and Jewish Founders, took on unexpected significance with the murder of eleven worshipers by a hate filled anti-Semite at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Branch made note of that tragedy in the midst of the Gala, when eleven young people lit candle of remembrance to the strains of a traditional Jewish hymn of peace.
The Gala also included the presentation of Annual Awards to nine Charleston individuals and entities. Lifetime Achievement Awards for commitment to justice and equity were presented to:
Ms. Johanna Martin-Carrington, a veteran entrepreneur and community activist who most recently served as Executive Director of the Jenkins Institute for the Children and as a Consultant for the Charleston Chronicle Foundation.
Attorney Armand Derfner, a senior partner in the Derfner and Altman law firm, a veteran civil rights and civil liberty lawyer who played critical roles in the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.
Mr. Hillery P. Douglas, a science entrepreneur and an active mentor and advocate for youth of the community and a former member and School Board Chairperson for the Charleston County School District.
The Honorable Bernard R. Fielding, Jr., a partner in the Fielding Home for Funerals, a veteran of the 1960’s civil rights movement and a former Judge for the Charleston County Probate Court.
The Trailblazer Award for a landmark achievement by an African-American was presented to Chief Reginald L. Burgess, the first African-American Chief of Police for the City of North Charleston.
The J. Arthur Brown Award, named for the Charleston Branch NAACP President who successfully advocated for the desegregation of the Charleston County’s Schools, was presented to Ms. Janet Segal for her efforts to make literacy a reality for all of Charleston’s children during her tenure as Chairperson of the Charleston County Board of Trustees and her leadership in numerous community organizations.
The Septima P. Clark (SEE) Award was presented to the Meeting Street Schools for their innovative and effective public-private school collaboration which has affirmed that all children can achieve, in spite of their cultural and economic circumstances.
The Community Service Award was presented to Morris Brown African Methodist Episcopal Church for graciously allowing the Charleston Branch NAACP to use their facilities for our monthly meetings at no charge to the Branch.
The President’s Award was presented to Ms. Lorraine Walker, a retired medical and executive secretary who voluntarily serves as clerk in the Charleston Branch NAACP office.
The crowning event of the Gala was the Keynote Address by the Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr., the 82nd Attorney General of the United States of America. Attorney General Holder reminded us of the need to be vigilant in standing up for and defending our nation in a time when some members of our national leadership promote and endorse racial, ethnic, religious and cultural division.
The election for 2019-2020 Branch Officers and Executive Committee Members for the Charleston Branch NAACP will be held at the Branch Office – 81 Columbus Street – on Thursday, November 29, 2018. All members of the Branch are encouraged to vote. The polls will be open from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm.
The Charleston Branch NAACP gives thanks to all of those who attended and supported the 101st Annual Freedom Fund Gala. We also urge all citizens to be active and involved in the ongoing battle for freedom, justice and equity, for an old saying is true – “Freedom is not free, join the NAACP.”