About 125 people attended the Danville-Boyle County NAACP’s 37th annual Freedom Fund Banquet on Saturday to raise money for college scholarships and also learn more about the importance of voting.
The program, held at First Christian Church on East Lexington Street, began with a spirited rendition of “The Negro National Anthem” led by NAACP member Marcus Stallworth.
The diverse group seemed to appreciate the song, especially lyrics such as, “Sing a song, full of the faith that the dark past has taught us. Sing a song, full of the hope that the present has brought us. Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory is won.”
Danville Mayor Bernie Hunstad said during his brief speech that while he had not personally experienced the discrimination that so many minorities have lived through over the years, he felt proud to sing the song with community members.
Local NAACP First Vice-President Marvin Swann Jr. served as master of ceremonies and gave a talk imploring people to remember the struggle for equal rights is far from over.
“We still need the NAACP, even more so now than we did 50 years ago,” Swann said.
Boyle and Mercer Family Court Judge Bruce Petrie welcomed the guests, which included a number of local officials. Perryville Mayor Anne Sleet, Boyle County Jailer and District 54 state representative candidate Barry Harmon, Boyle County Attorney Richard Campbell, and Danville City Commission candidates Janet Hamner and Paige Stevens were all in attendance.
But one of the local officials who received a significant welcome was the keynote speaker, Commissioner Tony Wilder.
Wilder was Boyle County judge-executive for more than 14 years. Gov. Steve Beshear appointed Wilder commissioner of the Department for Local Government in April 2008.
Wilder drew cheers and applause repeatedly throughout his non-partisan speech, during which he urged people to vote because others in the past have literally died for that right.
He also referred to his favorite book, “Profiles in Courage” byJohn F. Kennedy.
ThePulitzer Prize-winningwork outlines the bravery of eight U.S. senators throughout the history of the Senate. The leaders profiled crossed party lines or defied constituents, often losing political popularity in the process, to do the right thing.
“I don’t see any politicians today, Democrat or Republican, who would qualify to be named in this great book,” Wilder said.
After the banquet, NAACP lifetime member Paul Stansbury said this year’s event was a particular success partially because of Wilder’s willingness to be the keynote speaker.
“Commissioner Wilder gave an inspiring talk, and I think it made a lot of people in the audience realize that your vote really does count,” Stansbury said.
With the proceeds raised Saturday, the local NAACP chapter expects to fund five $500 scholarships for minority students in Danville and Boyle County.