Forward Together!

Published 9:39 am Tuesday, September 17, 2013

By Caroline Stephenson


WINTON – The Hertford County Branch #5403 of the NAACP held its annual Freedom Fund Banquet on Saturday, Sept. 14 at the Hobson Reynolds Elks Shrine in Winton.  A crowd of approximately 350 people came out to enjoy an evening of food, fellowship, and reflection.

The theme of the evening was “Forward Together! Not One Step Back!”

Tremaine Kwasikipui of Roanoke-Chowan Community College introduced the evening’s Youth Speaker, William J. Barber, III. He is the son of North Carolina NAACP State Conference President, the Reverend Doctor William J. Barber, II.

Barber began his presentation with two questions. “If not now, when?  If not us, who?” he said.

This was a call for young people to organize, mobilize, and make their voices heard in protest of recent legislative changes regarding teacher pay, school vouchers, early voting, and voter IDs.

Barber also stated that at the upcoming state NAACP Conference, to be held in Rocky Mount from Oct. 10-12, youth involvement and direct action are high on the agenda.

Barber said that the Moral Monday protests would be held once again in Raleigh on Monday, Sept. 16. Youth and college students will march in honor of the 50th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in which four girls were killed.

“This is our time,” Barber said.

The Reverend Doctor James W. Shearn, pastor of Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Winton, gave the keynote address.  He is a native of Murfreesboro and a graduate of Calvin S. Brown High School, class of 1970.  He recently retired from a 42-year career at the Newport News Shipbuilding Company in Virginia.

The message of Dr. Shearn’s address was “God Will Turn Things Around.”

“God has always been on the side of oppressed people.”  Meaning that despite the radical political changes made by the Governor and General Assembly, there is still room for hope and encouragement. Don’t sit down and do nothing. Keep pressing and going forward,” Shearn said

The Mistress of Ceremony, Mary Harrell-Sessoms, welcomed the large crowd and was crowned Mother of the Year later in the program.  Sister Mary Wynn Swain, a longtime member of the Hertford County Branch, was bestowed the lifetime title of Mother of the Year Emeritus.  Bishop Doctor J. T. Watford received the Humanitarian Award.  He is the owner and manager of WRCS AM 970 Radio Station (Joy 97) in Ahoskie, which is home to a weekly NAACP radio hour on Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Among the distinguished guests in attendance were District Attorney Valerie Asbell, new Roanoke Community College President Dr. Michael Elam, and Superintendent of Hertford County Public Schools Dr. Michael Perry. The music for the evening was provided by Harmony.

Linda McNair-Moore, Secretary of the Hertford County Branch, stated her appreciation to all who came and all who contributed.

Founded in February of 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization.  The Hertford County Branch was founded in 1948 and its current President is Carl White.