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NAACP members urged to get informed, go out and vote

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Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor of Student Affairs at East Carolina University, was the keynote speaker at the NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet on Saturday at the Hilton Greenville.


By Karen Eckert
The Daily Reflector

Monday, October 22, 2018

“Go vote!” was the catchphrase of the evening at the 63rd Annual NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet on Saturday at the Hilton Greenville.

The theme of the banquet, sponsored by the Pitt County branch of the NAACP, was “Taking the Resistance to the Ballot Box.” 

“Everyone needs to go vote – but go vote informed,” said keynote speaker Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor of Student Affairs at East Carolina University, to the crowd of approximately 200 guests. “Listen to all sides of any debate. Ask yourself — what are the questions not being asked?

“Unfortunately, today our country is very polarized and everything is very politicized,” Hardy said. “You see it, you read it, you hear it, you feel it on a daily basis. Almost everything is filtered through the blue lens or the red lens — things such as poverty, health care, education, immigration, sexual assault, racism, sexism, sexual orientation, abortion, voter rights and the list could go on and on.

“Our perspectives on complex moral, social, legal and even scientific issues, such as climate change and global warming, are all being defined down partisan lines, which of course only furthers the divide,” she said.

The country today is much like the “house divided” that Abraham Lincoln talked about in 1858, Hardy said.

It’s time to heal that divide, she said. “Decide what kind of leaders you want making decisions about your city, your state and your country.”

When choosing whom to vote for, Hardy asked the audience not to think in terms of blue versus red, or liberal versus conservative, or Democrat versus Republican, but to consider instead the attributes they want in their political leaders.

“Do you want leaders who exhibit some sense of integrity and ethics?” she asked.  “How about a leader who can listen, who can think critically and problem solve based upon facts and based upon what’s right? Do you want a leader who is respected and respectable, honest and trustworthy, a leader who is able to build well-functioning teams and build effective, positive relationships?”

Hardy said people of all ages are needed to help in the heal the divided nation. 

“Activism is alive and well on most college campuses,” she said. “Let’s encourage our young people to keep speaking truth to power. … We need to pay attention to this generation because there are more eligible voters in this generation than any other, which means they have the power to change things.”

Leaders and potential leaders were on hand at Saturday’s banquet. NAACP is a non-partisan and multi-racial organization, so candidates from all parties in the upcoming midterm election were invited to attend, organizers said.

The audience included candidates seeking local offices, such as incumbent Clerk of Court Sarah Beth Rhodes, who is running unopposed, and state Sen. Don Davis, who is running to retain his seat.

Davis said that getting voters to the ballot box is “very critical” for this blue moon election. A “blue moon” election happens infrequently (every twelve years in N.C.) when there is no presidential, U.S. Senate or governmental race at the top of the ballot to drive up voter turnout.

Other city and county officials also attended the event, including  Greenville’s Chief of Police Mark Holtzman, who said that he found Hardy’s speech to be “inspiring and hopeful.”

Greenville residents Jeannette Debs and her husband, Rob, who is pastor of the Unitarian-Universal Congregation of Greenville, are NAACP members.

“I like it because we get The Crisis magazine (the official publication of the NAACP) and that educates us about the issues because it’s easy as a white person to be kind of oblivious to what the issues are …our white privilege allows us to not be aware,” Jeannette Debs said.

Mark Moss and Mary Kay Glazer, who recently moved to Greenville from Wisconsin for Moss’ job at the ECU School of Dental Medicine, and became members of the NAACP.

“It feels right to be part of the work that (the NAACP does),” said Glazer, who is a spiritual director, retreat leader and free-lance writer. Being members is something new for the couple. Glazer said she and Moss were not members of the NAACP in Wisconsin.

“Everyone is welcome to join our organization,” said Calvin Henderson, president of the Pitt County chapter. “We need more people to assist us with the fight (for justice).”

Henderson said the banquet is “an opportunity for the Pitt County NAACP chapter to give back to the community.”

Proceeds help provide college scholarships to deserving high school seniors and also are used to fight to end poverty throughout Pitt County.

This year, a portion of the proceeds also will go to the American Red Cross to help with hurricane relief efforts, Henderson said.

For more information about the Pitt County chapter of the NAACP, visit https://www.facebook.com/PittCountyNaacp

Contact Karen Eckert at keckert@reflector.com or 252-329-9565.