Saturday, December 29, 2007

Freedom is Not Free-- Attending NAACP Holly Ball

RICHMOND, Va. -- It was a chance to step back in time when I was an active leader in the Richmond Youth Council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

This week (Dec. 27, 2007) I attended the 2007 Holly Ball, an annual fundraiser for the NAACP in downtown Richmond at the Crown Plaza Hotel. When I was living here as a high school student, that was the Ramada Renaissance.

A lot can change in 20 years.

Nonetheless, it's been more than 20 years since I was president of the NAACP Youth Council. Sad to say, the civil rights challenges of the 1980s have not all gone away.

The Holly Ball is one of the signature "freedom fund" events for the youth council. It's a reminder that "Freedom is not free."

As we move into the period of celebrating the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in January and Black History Month (and the NAACP's 99th birthday) in February, it's an opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to making sure everyone is treated fairly, with respect and dignity.

It's also a chance to revive efforts to build leadership skills in our young people. I would not be where I am today without the efforts of the NAACP and others who opened doors for me.

How exciting to meet the bright, energetic current president, Dquan Love, a tenth grader at Varina High School. Just think, when I was youth president in early 1980s, Dquan was not even born. (Yeh, I do feel a little old saying that)

As I spoke to the nearly 100 youth from Central Virginia attending the Holly Ball, I remembered the times I spoke at Richmond School Board or Richmond City Council-- even to a committee of the Virginia General Assembly. I learned to speak out on issues of concern thanks to the NAACP.

One thing that has not changed in 20 years is the youth adviser, the woman who organized the NAAACP Youth Council in 1971 (a year after I was born)-- Ora M. Lomax is STILL the adviser. Despite recent health challenges, she's managed to keep the NAACP Youth Council going..and inspire yet another generation of youth to be all that they can be.

In 2008, I need to make a new year's resolution (one that I will actually keep) to renew my ACTIVE (not just dues-paying membership) involvement in the NAACP. It's more critical that the organization have actively involved members now more than ever.

Where will I find the time? I'll have to leave that to God.

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