by Andre Ash
On Sunday, the Detroit Branch NAACP held its 68th Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner at Huntington Place in downtown Detroit. The dinner is an annual fellowship of community leaders working to continue the fight for freedom and justice.
This year also marked the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s march in Detroit and where he first delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. This past weekend, thousands of metro-Detroiters gathered along Woodward Ave. in Detroit to commemorate King’s visit and fight for civil rights. The City of Detroit also unveiled a statue of Dr. King at Hart Plaza, in his honor.
The Detroit Branch NAACP is home to the Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner. The annual Dinner is an important event that raises key funding, financially supporting the programs and initiatives of the civil rights organization.
Elements of Dr. King’s powerful words years ago still rang true during the annual Dinner as guest speakers delivered remarks.
“We’re proud that Dr. King chose Detroit to do the walk 60 years ago and since then we have made progress in the state of Michigan,” said Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist. “What Governor Gretchen Whitmer and I want everyone to understand with our allies, the voters of Michigan chose last year, we have worked to expand civil rights, to expand protection under the law.”
The keynote speaker for this year’s annual ‘Freedom Dinner’ was Senator (D) Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, who spoke to the challenges he faced to secure an election win and the legal fight he had to put up with by some election officials in their efforts to suppress voting access.
“We must continue to fight,” said Sen. Warnock. “We must fight for our democracy. I know you see me standing here tonight, but I want you to understand what it took.”
“We must remind all elected officials that this is the people’s house, One house. One family. …I fight for democracy because democracy is the political enactment of a spiritual idea.”
“I believe we were created in the image of GOD, and if we were created in the image of GOD, we ought to have a voice, we ought to have a vote in the direction of the country and our destiny within it. I believe a vote is the kind of prayer, for the world we desire for ourselves and for our children. That’s why we have to deal with voter suppression and dark money in our politics.”
“As stand at the doorway towards a national election in 2024, now is not the time for any of us to turn back or to get comfortable as we face a crossroads of which way for democracy,” said Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, President of Detroit Branch NAACP. “Will we be forced back to a period of national shame and disgrace? Will we go forward to realize a future of not a national dream but a national plan establishing freedom and civil rights for all Americans? We will press towards the mark of voting, advocating, and strategizing for policies and programs that lift up the quality of life.”
Special recognition was given to key stakeholders during the event’s award presentation. Attorney Erin Keith received the Great Expectations Award. A Great Expectations Award was also given to Mr. Ken Nixon.
The Honorable Kyra Harris-Bolden received the Ida B. Wells Freedom & Justice Award. Senator Stephanie Change was recognized with a Mary Church Terrel Freedom & Justice Award. Ambassador Andrew J. Young received the James Welson Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner launched in April 1956. It began under the leadership of Branch President Edward M. Turner, Arthur L. Johnson, and Dr. Lionel F. Swan. The Freedom Fund Dinner was founded in a period of renewed national hope and determination among Black Americans, even in the face of continuing racial violence and tragedy.