On October 29, the Peoria Branch NAACP was able to return in person to its only fundraiser, the Annual Freedom Fund Banquet, at the Par-A-Dice Hotel.
More than 450 guests participated in this 60th-year celebration which featured dynamic speaker Tiffany Hightower, Executive Director of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. She highlighted the importance of knowing the Power of ‘US’; that we have the power to change our present and our future, just as courageous individuals did in the past. Her message parallels the famous quote by Alice Walker: “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”
Recent Bradley Graduate Pierre Paul, Founder & CEO of We Hear You LLC, served as Master of Ceremonies. Five individuals were honored with community service awards, including a new one for a revered background servant leader: Alfred J. Hooks (Posthumously) received the Jessie P. Johnson-Daniels Icon Award (new); McFarland A. Braggs II received the Harry Sephus Trailblazer Award; Ronda Guyton received the John H. Gwynn, Jr. Courage Award; Jackie Petty received the Donald R. Jackson, Sr. Game-Changer Award and Pattie Polk received the Sam & Jean Polk Humanitarian Award.
Reverend Marvin Hightower, NAACP President, summarized our celebrations of The NAACP at work in the Peoria Community over the past 2 1/2 years, even during the Covid-19 Pandemic:
- He participated in the interviewing process to hire a new Peoria Police Chief and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officers for both the City and County.
- Labor & Industry Committee, chaired by 1st Vice-President Sherry Carter-Allen, remained busy, helping to write equity policies for Peoria Public Schools, Peoria Park District, as well as the City and County. She also assisted with creating and implementing the Peoria Equity Accountability Program Registry for Minority Business Enterprise and Women Business Enterprises.
- Political Action Committee Chair Jackie Petty hosted a series of Voter Education Townhalls, as well as candidate forums for the County and Peoria Public School Boards
- Young Adult Committee, chaired by Asya Washum, hosted events to increase NAACP Memberships for the next generation of leaders.
- The Health Committee, currently chaired by Sincere Williams, held a virtual Monkeypox forum.
- As part of the statewide Pandemic Health Navigation Program, Treasurer/Finance Chair Lorene King wrote and administered a community grant worth more than $250,000, which aided in assisting area households adversely impacted by Covid, with groceries, medicine, mortgage payments and other critical needs.
- Environmental and Communications Chair Ryan Hidden hosted a screening of the documentary Dangerous Neighbor in collaboration with the Central Illinois Health Alliance.
- Education Chair Ernestine Jackson advocated for support of Social Emotional Learning
- NAACP Youth ACT-SO had 7 Gold Medal Winners
- The NAACP was a major sponsor of the 2022 Juneteenth Community Celebration.
- Other branch leaders include Sherry Cannon, Secretary and Assistant Nia-McFarland-Drye; Dave Pittman -Community Engagement; Marcus Washington – IT Specialist; Women In NAACP Chair Chanel Hargrave-Murry, and Donald Jackson – Legal Redress. At-Large Executive Committee members are Helen King, Eric Burns, Susan O’Neal, Joyce Edwards and Valerie Timmes.
The Peoria Branch NAACP appreciates the continued support of Peoria citizens, community and Greek organizations, and corporate and individual sponsors. It takes all of US to create and sustain meaningful change!
Photos by Marcus Washington