The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—Joliet Branch hopes its effort to make an impact in the community will not be for naught.
“It’s an opportunity for us to come and acknowledge people in the community and to award recipients,” said Mike Clark, president of the NAACP—Joliet Branch.
The Aug. 4 banquet featured cocktails and networking, dinner, live music and dancing.
This year’s program recognized a Buffalo Soldier, the Fairmont Community Partnership Group and Dr. Anthony Easley.
“They all have done wonderful things,” Clark said.
Clark said the excitement leading up to the banquet was evident.
“We come out and celebrate our students,” Clark said. “People get excited.”
This year served as the second time in which the annual event was hosted at the St. George Social Center in Joliet.
“This is our major fundraiser for the year,” Clark said. “All throughout the year, we have a lot of events and opportunities for people to get involved in.”
Approximately, 2,000 attendees were at this year’s Freedom Fund Banquet.
Students who were recognized during the program received scholarships valued at $1,000 or $500.
Clark said he believes the work of the NAACP—Joliet Branch continues to carry weight with many people in the community.
“The organization has a history of being at the forefront of social and political issues and that hasn’t changed,” Clark said. “We are still here combatting discrimination at every turn.”
When asked if the political climate and the current federal administration have increased the need for organizations, like the NAACP—Joliet Branch, Clark negated the idea.
“It might have brought things more to the forefront of the daily news,” he said. “The things we are dealing with have issues for far too long. These issues aren’t new.”
Membership in the NAACP—Joliet has changed over the years.
“We have a very diverse and inclusive group, and we’re looking to increase our membership,” Clark said.
The NAACP—Joliet Branch currently has 60 active members.
Betty Washington, a past president of the NAACP—Joliet and a current member of the chapter, said she feels the group is moving in the right direction.
“I believe it’s grown,” she said. “We’ve gotten a younger following with Mike as president.”
Clark shared that sentiment.
“We are growing, indeed,” he said. “People want to be involved. There are a lot of great organizations in Joliet. It’s not just the NAACP—Joliet. We welcome everyone to come and take part in the community.”
Washington said the banquet continues to complement the work of the chapter in many ways.
“I don’t think young people understand the importance the NAACP has had on America,” she said, adding the Freedom Fund Banquet can help them to understand the importance the NAACP has had on their lives.
Sponsors for this year’s event included Minor Morris Funeral Home, Vincent Cornelius, E-Z Auto Sales, Matt Heath of State Farm Insurance, Dr. Cheryl McCarthy of Joliet Township High School District 204, State Sen. Pat McGuire, Howard Wright of State Farm Insurance, Dr. Theresa Rouse of Joliet Public Schools District 86 and State Rep. Larry Walsh, Jr.