NAACP hosts annual Freedom Fund Banquet

Published 12:22 am Monday, June 6, 2016

The Beaufort County NAACP is raising money to fund its mission and programs to continue its support of the community.

The chapter held its 35th annual Freedom Fund Banquet, inviting special guests and representatives from local organizations to come together for an evening of food, fellowship and fundraising. Funds generated from the event will be used for outreach and training initiatives in the community, across the region and state, as well as for the chapter’s Freedom Fund, which helps carry out its mission, according to William Booth, president of the chapter.

Banquet attendees included representatives from Washington-Fire-EMS Services, Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, Washington City Council, Beaufort County Schools and others.

Booth said the NAACP has a strong presence in Beaufort County and, if not for that, many issues within the community could likely have different outcomes. Examples he mentioned were the Belhaven hospital issue and interaction with local law enforcement.

“For the past two years, we’ve been active in supporting the (reopening of the) hospital in Belhaven,” Booth said. “There has been a number of people involved in issues that if it wasn’t for the NAACP, the outcome would have been totally different. There have been people unjustly charged, and if it wasn’t for the NAACP, people would have gone to jail and been unjustly charged.”

Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal said the NAACP has been instrumental in helping the Town of Belhaven with its fight to reopen the hospital in Belhaven.

“Without the NAACP, the Belhaven hospital would have been over early on,” O’Neal said. “When Belhaven had a crisis, the only people that came to help the people of Belhaven was the Beaufort County and North Carolina NAACP. I’m a Republican mayor, and they didn’t hesitate one moment to try to right an injustice, and we still work toward that today.”

The banquet included guest speaker Alvin Powell, president of the Beaufort County Police Activities League. Powell has worked extensively through BCPAL to introduce youth to aviation and boating, as well as help improve the trust and understanding between residents and first responders in a variety of different ways. With the recent number of police shootings and first responders the subject of unprovoked attacks throughout the nation, Powell’s mission is both timely and proactive.

Powell said the NAACP, founded by a diverse group of socially minded people, has worked to address today’s social issues in a positive manner and has developed a positive reputation. Powell, a retired FBI agent, discussed the FBI’s role in the civil rights movement, and said to truly move forward, Beaufort County residents, regardless of race or ethnic origin, need to work together to address relevant social issues.

“Beaufort County has a lot of potential as a county and (in) individual talent,” Powell stated in an email. “The NAACP should seek to mobilize this talent to address social issues to make Beaufort County a great place to live, retire or attract industry. There are several equity stakeholders involved in establishing a community environment of trust and understanding with law enforcement and other first responders. The NAACP can play a role in helping to get everyone to the discussion table before an incident occurs.”