The West Side branch of NAACP hosted its annual Freedom Fund reception Saturday at the Hawthorne Race Track Turf Club, 3501 S. Laramie.
This year’s celebration marked 100 years of the NAACP, which was founded Feb. 12, 1909. The NAACP was formed partly in response to the practice of lynching and the 1908 race riot in Springfield.
Karl A. Brinson, president, welcomed everyone. Emcees were Joann Kern and Art Porter, executive producer of the WGCI morning show.
Local members recognized the centennial in a series of readings of recognized works. Annie Marie Ford, finance committee chairwoman, portrayed Ida B. Wells. Walter Washington, chairman of ACT-SO, portrayed W.E.B. DuBois and Walter White. Wilbert Cook III, a vice president, portrayed Thurgood Marshall. Tevis Jackson, youth committee treasurer, portrayed Vernon Jarrett, Chicago journalist and ACT-SO founder.
There also were portrayals of the four girls killed in the Sept. 15, 1963 bombing by the Ku Klux Klan of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Rickema Walker portrayed Carol Denise McNair. Janeicia Williams portrayed Carole Rosamond Robertson. Destiny Rogers portrayed Addie Mae Collins. Jessica Bailey portrayed Cynthia Diane Wesley.
Janeicia Williams, daughter of NAACP youth adviser Deborah Williams, also recited a poem by Langston Hughes titled “A New Song.”
Jessica Bailey and Destiny Rogers also performed in a dance presentation, as did Quick Reaction Dance Troupe.
Standing ovations followed every young performer’s work.
Guest speakers were U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, former alderman Dorothy Tillman, and Northeastern Illinois University Professor Robert Starks.
Davis said the theme of the evening was all the positive attributes we have in our community. People in the room, he said, were the hope of America. He pointed to community members like Mac and Albetina Alexander, owners of MacArthur’s Restaurant. Davis said the Alexanders have put together one the best business ventures on the West Side and that they give so much back to the community. Davis also pointed to Bernard Clay, whom he says has become the junior Silas Parnell sending kids to college. Davis pointed to many in the audience, acknowledging everyone’s positive contributions. He also noted his 40-year marriage to Vera Davis, who is board chairman of NAACP West Side Branch.
Dorothy Tillman, who said she loves West Side folks because she once lived on the West Side, gave a rousing speech about being black in America, which she said means you don’t have an economic base. She talked about marching with Dr. King and being one of the first SCLC organizers to cross the Edmund-Petotus Bridge in Selma, Ala., on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965. “We should be a part of the American dream, we built this country: black labor, white wealth.” Tillman is the author of Hang Onto Your Hats and hosts a talk show on WVON-AM on Saturday mornings.
Robert Starks is an associate professor of political science and director of the Harold Washington Institute for Research & Policy Studies at Northeastern Illinois University’s Jacob Carruthers Center for Inner Cities Studies. He talked about the future of being black in America. “We are not in a post-racial society just because we elected Barack Obama, one of Ald. Preckwinkle’s best friends to the White House. Unfortunately Dorothy Tillman is correct we are in a dire situation. Economists that I have talked to are now predicting that because of the economic situation we’re in right now, this generation of young people coming our of high school and college might be the first generation of African Americans to earn less over the course of their lifetime then their parents and grandparents.
“We must love each other. The only thing that has made us survive from 1619 to now is our spirituality an we’d better get back to that. You and I know there is big difference between religion and spirituality. We know lots of people who never go to church who are very spiritual.”