The 68th Annual Convention of the Alabama NAACP State Conference was held Friday and Saturday, Oct. 2-3 with the theme “No Vote, No Justice.” While this year’s event was virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the slate of speakers, topics discussed and those recognized created a ceremony to be remembered.
With the passing of civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis earlier this year, the importance of equality and justice, and honoring his legacy, was a foundational element of the convention. Over the two-day event, key focus areas for the state were discussed, including the importance of economic development, bridging the digital divide in rural Alabama, the importance of education during the pandemic and exercising the right to vote during this election year.
The convention concluded Saturday evening with the Freedom Awards program. Derrick Johnson, national president and CEO of the NAACP, delivered the keynote address.
During the Freedom Awards program, NAACP Alabama State Conference President Benard Simelton recognized key contributors to the state and the Alabama NAACP. State Rep. Prince Chestnut of Selma was recognized as the Legislator of the Year. Judge Karlos Finley was honored as Attorney of the Year along with The Yellow Store as Minority Business of the Year and Vivian’s Door as Partner of the Year.
“We are happy and elated to recognize community leaders and NAACP members for their significant contributions, particularly during the pandemic,” said Simelton. “Now more than ever, it is important to be civically engaged, and encourage those around you to vote and make your voice heard.”
The Corporate Advocacy Award was given to Alabama Power in recognition of the company’s work with the NAACP in providing critical resources and information to people affected by COVID-19 during the more than six-month suspension of disconnections and late payments.
“I am moved that the state’s most prominent civil rights organization honored Alabama Power, and our employees, for the work we are doing in the community,” said Quentin Riggins, Alabama Power senior vice president for Government and Corporate Affairs. “The award and recognition is special and I am excited about our continued engagement with the NAACP to continue making a positive impact in the communities we serve.”
NAACP leaders recognized included: Joshua Thompson of the Youth and College Division; Leon Steele as executive committee member of the year; Lonzo Bullie and the Tuskegee Macon County branch; and Jessie Qualls and the Veteran Affairs Committee. Dorothea Crosby received the Chapter President of the Year award for outstanding work in strengthening the Metro Birmingham Branch.
The awards ceremony continued with the induction of influential leaders into the new NAACP Hall of Honor, including:
- Fred Gray Sr. – Influential civil rights attorney and activist who successfully fought to allow the NAACP into Alabama after the state had outlawed it. Gray also successfully defended the rights of Vivian Malone and James Hood to attend the University of Alabama.
- Della M. Bryant – Longtime NAACP member recognized for her contributions to the city of Montgomery.
- Mary Walker – Longtime NAACP member recognized for her contributions to the city of Mobile.
- Frank Travis – Created Alabama NAACP Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) designed to encourage academic achievement and cultural participation for Black high school students on local and national levels.
The Hall of Honor names will be inscribed at Talladega College, which was the site of the first NAACP branch in Alabama.
To learn more about the NAACP, please visit alnaacp.org.