That was the theme for the annual Freedom Fund Banquet of the Virginia Beach Chapter of the NAACP, held Friday evening at the Westin at Town Center. Over 200 people were in attendance for an enjoyable evening with a good meal.
The Banquet opened with the signing of Lift Every Voice And Sing, which has been called "The Black National Anthem". The Mistress of Ceremonies was Benita Adams of WVEC-TV. Mayor Will Sessoms and his wife attended, with the Mayor reading the Proclamation making October 30, 2009 "NAACP Freedom Fund Day".
The Awards were given out by Georgia Allen, who has been President of the Virginia Beach Chapter since 2000. The 2009 recipients:
1. Community Services Award - Delceno Miles, CEO of the Miles Agency.
2. Community Services Award - Delegate Bob Tata
3. Trailblazer Award - Senator Yvonne Miller. Senator Miller was not only the first African-American woman elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, but the first into the Virginia Senate, too.
4. President's Awards - posthumously to Pastor W. Samuel Walton and Reverend C.K. Jones.
The Keynote Address was by Monique Morris, Vice President for Research and Advocacy of the national NAACP. Morris noted that Virginia Beach hasn't had an African-American City Council member in over a decade, despite a population that's about 20% African-American. Virginia Beach has the biggest racial disparity in the nation on drug arrests. In South Hampton Roads as a whole, African-Americans are twice as likely to be rejected for mortgages as Whites with equal footing, and six times as likely to be offered subprime loans when trying to refinance their homes.
I have a good sense of humor, and last night had it's moments:
1. Delceno Miles stated that Georgia Allen and Carl Wright were the only two people who could get that many politicians into a room and never allow them to speak.
2. Yvonne Miller gave advice to the men, "You don't have to understand your woman, just love her."
3. As Georgia Allen noted she may be missing some officials in the room, at our back row table we began waving arms, napkins, and pointing to get her attention. She finally realized she had missed Commonwealth's Attorney Harvey Bryant.
Yes, Georgia missed some (she never got City Councilman Glen Davis), and I will, too. However, I post this partial list to show anyone who has never attended the Freedom Fund Banquet just how major an event it is:
1. Congress - 2nd District Representative Glen Nye
2. General Assembly - Senator Yvonne Miller, and Delegates Bob Tata, Joe Bouchard, & Bobby Mathieson.
3. City Council - Mayor Will Sessoms, and Councilmen Bob Dyer & Glen Davis.
4. Virginia Beach City Staff - City Manager Jim Spore, Deputy City Manager Susie Walston, CVB Director Jim Ricketts, and a large contingent of senior VBPD Officers. All three African-American department Directors were in attendance: Fagan Stackhouse (Human Resources), Warren Harris (Economic Development), and Jason Cosby (Public Works).
5. Republicans - Governor-in-waiting Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen, 2nd District Chairman Gary Byler, and Congressional candidates Scott Taylor & Chuck Smith.
6. NAACP - the branch Presidents from the other four cities of South Hampton Roads.
The Banquet ended with an exercise where we turned to the person next to us and said "Neighbor, change begins with you." It will.