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Retired justice challenges crowd to reach out, unite during NAACP banquet


The Pine Bluff Branch of the NAACP recently hosted its 22nd annual Dove Freedom Fund Banquet at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.

With the theme, “We Shall Not Be Moved,” Donna Terrell, anchor for Fox 16 News, served as mistress of ceremony for the 10th year.

The speaker for the evening, retired New York State Supreme Court Justice Laura D. Blackburne, using her own family as an example, appealed to the audience to see the NAACP as an excellent opportunity to reach out to youth. Blackburne is the mother of three daughters with outstanding careers. She credits their success to active involvement with the NAACP college chapter and Youth Council. She said the family planned their vacations wherever the conventions were being held. As a result, her daughters got to meet NAACP legends like Roy Wilkins, Ben Hooks and others who influenced their destinies.

Through the NAACP, Blackburne said, “they learned how to stand up in front of a crowd, they learned how to be sensible and how to take a project from beginning to end.” Blackburne emphasized the importance of reaching out to touch young people, giving them something to do with their talent and enthusiasm.

“Yes, too many of our young men are killing each other and living lives of crime and drugs, but it can be prevented,” she said.

Several young men and women sat on stage representing the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff NAACP Chapter and Youth Council.

Referencing the theme of the evening, Blackburne said “there are a whole bunch of folks trying to move us, but they are trying to move us in the wrong direction. They want to take us back. But like a tree planted by the water, we shall not be moved. We’re not giving up on one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

Looking out at the crowd of “judges, politicians and hard-working NAACP’ers,” Blackburne urged them to be united, to stand their ground, to be inspired, to not be intimidated.

“We are the strongest body of organized volunteers in the United States … the unpaid army, bought and paid for by nobody. So, our voice has to be like a clarion call,” she said.

She said even though it has cost some lives, progress has been made. Yet, much progress is still needed. She recommended reading for inspiration to keep the pressure on about heroes and sheroes, past and present.

“Like them, we need to be willing to stuff envelopes, knock on doors and get others involved,” she said. Blackburne stressed the importance of recruiting for the sake of posterity, saying, “Thirty dollars can’t buy anything as valuable as an NAACP membership.”

Following Blackburne, special recognition was given to several people who have made significant contributions to the NAACP. Those awards included:

• The Outstanding Community Leader’s Award to the Rev. H.O. Gray

• Michael Eubanks for serving as the entertainer

• Donna Terrell for her 10 years of service to the branch as the mistress of ceremony

• Dr. O.T. Gordon Sr. and Norma Gordon for their services given to the Pine Bluff branch

Prior to the banquet, a VIP Reception and Awards Program was held and awards were presented to:

• Classie Green – Adult Member of the Year Award

• Rodney Seals – Youth Member of the Year Award

• Revs. David and Edna Morgan – Community Service Award

• Rev. Leroy Edwards Jr. – Dove Civil Rights Award

The black-tie event is named after former NAACP president, William “Bill” Dove. After joining the organization in 1946, Dove became a household name in Pine Bluff for his tireless efforts to end segregation and fight injustices. Current president, Wanda V. Neal, said the Pine Bluff chapter is now the largest in Arkansas.