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NAACP speaker hits complacency / November 11, 2013

The keynote speaker at the annual Halifax County NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet delivered a scorching indictment of “immoral and extremist policies” in his home state of North Carolina to stir a large audience on hand Thursday evening at The Prizery banquet hall.

The Rev. Rodney S. Sadler Jr. , Ph.D, associate professor of Bible at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte, N.C. warned a packed room of local NAACP members, guests and local dignitaries that “those who don’t remember their past, are destined to repeat it.”

Sadler described the shift in North Carolina politics with the election last year of a new Republican governor, Pat McCrory, and the prior takeover of the state’s General Assembly by what he called “elected extremists” aligned with the Tea Party.

Sadler lamented the actions of the legislature since gaining full control of the capital in Raleigh: its decision to terminate unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, its rejection of federal money to expand the Medicaid program for 500,000 low-income North Carolinians, and passage of “one of the harshest voter disenfranchisement laws in the nation that will hinder elderly people, young people, poor people from gaining access to the requisite ID to vote.”

He also blasted the North Carolina General Assembly’s decision “to take $100,000,000 from our public schools to put in a private school voucher scheme” and lamented the initial passive response: “We did not say a thing!”

However, Sadler hailed the growing activism of North Carolina’s Moral Monday/Forward Together Movement to contest the changes to state law that are emanating from the legislature. He praised the “courageous decision” of the Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, to lead 17 ministers into the N.C. General Assembly Building on April 29 to protest the actions.

All 17 ministers were arrested, he said, and another group of 30 people, bearing “witness to the fact that every human being made in God’s image deserves respect and dignity, “ was arrested the next week. Over the next ten weeks more than 924 people were arrested.

Sadler said the protestors have had to step outside their comfort zones and stand up for the way others, all of whom are created in the image of God, are treated.

“By reverencing the image of God in each other and by treating them as though we were caring for God, we can begin to work toward a more just and more loving world. This is our common work, this is our path for our future,” Sadler said.

The Freedom Fund Banquet also featured remarks by Halifax County NAACP president Rev. Frank E. Coleman Jr., who noted, “Our pledge is to prepare the community for tomorrow.” Coleman invited heads of local government and agencies to speak at the event to discuss ways to bring the community together,

Offering comments in this vein was Kathy Andrews, head of the local Social Services Department, who pointed to the agency’s mission statement to promote the well-being of all with dignity and helping people to help others.

The Rev. C. Lewis Motley of the Banister Minister’s Alliance said his group of ministers is working hard with the love of God to drive out hate in the community. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Merle Herndon quoted the famous remark, “United we stand, divided we fall,” in noting that “while each of us is different, together we can make a change.”

Patty Nelson of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center spoke about the center’s mission to offer advancement through education.

Sgt. Quentin Clark of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office said the department works to promote the betterment of the community through its support for community groups and the National Night Out event, as well as its support for the Halifax County Cancer Association.

South Boston Mayor Ed Owens welcomed guests to town, saying “we’re working to make this place a better place to live.” Halifax County Supervisor William B. Claiborne added, “It warms my heart to see this diverse community moving forward. We don’t want to let tonight be the end of it.”

Del. James Edmunds also addressed the crowd, thanking them for their support and saying he has an open door policy at his office. “My roots are here and my heart is here also.”

Commonwealth’s Attorney-elect Tracy Quackenbush Martin also spoke, telling the crowd, “We have to earn your trust. Justice has no color and no political attachment. Bringing this community together is about how we treat each other.”

Thursday night guests were treated to musical selections by Genesis, a musical group from Traynham Grove Baptist Church, which travels for concerts as far away as Pennsylvania.

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