On Saturday, the Monroe County branch of the NAACP held its 42nd Freedom Fund Banquet in Shreve Hall at Ivy Tech on the west side of Bloomington.
The banquet is an annual fundraiser that supports the branch’s activities including its scholarship program.
The NAACP was founded in 1909, and is often described as the oldest civil rights organization in the country. In the Bloomington area, the phrase “oldest and boldest” is a common way to describe the group. At Saturday’s dinner, the tagline was credited to city councilmember Jim Sims.
Delivering the keynote address this year was Gloria Howell, who is director of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center. She spoke on the theme “Always Moving Forward.”
The theme is an allusion to a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving.”
It’s the final line from a speech King gave at Spelman College on April 10, 1960. The quote is King’s paraphrase of a sentiment expressed in a poem by Langston Hughes called “Mother to Son.” The mother tells her son:
So boy, don’t you stop now.
Don’t you sit down on the steps cause you find it’s kinda hard.
For I’se still goin boy, I’se still climbing,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
In her remarks, Howell talked about her experience leading the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center. She meets a lot of people from different parts of the country who have arrived in Bloomington trying to figure out how to find community.
Howell gave examples of questions from new arrivals: “What’s there to do here?” or “Where can I get my hair cut?” or “Where are the soul food restaurants?”
She continued: “Where are the Black people?” “Where are the Black people?” “Where are the Black people?” and “Where are the Black people?” The repeated line landed with the audience, which gave it laughs and applause.
Howell turned serious in sketching out the kind of response she gives to that question: “Your community is here. Black folks are here.” She added, “Community doesn’t readily find us all the time. We have to build it.”
Below are some additional photos from Saturday’s dinner, which include some of the candidates who are running for office in the May 3 primary election. The last day to register to vote in that election is Monday April 4. The first day of in-person early voting is April 5, in Monroe County’s voting operations building at 3rd and Walnut Streets (the former NAPA store).
At Saturday’s dinner, candidates for office and current office holders were invited to stand and take the mic just long enough to say their name and what office they hold or seek.
For information on all candidates in Monroe County races, a good place to start is the statewide candidate list on the League of Women Voters Vote411 site. Search within that page for “Monroe County.”
Photos: NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner 2022