Carl Levin, Debbie Stabenow, Detroit, Events — May 7, 2012 at 9:36 am

Detroit NAACP celebrates its 100-year anniversary with an impressive 57th Annual Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner


Restoring hope for Detroit’s future

Last night, the Detroit NAACP held its 57th Annual Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner. This was a particularly auspicious event because this is the 100-year anniversary of the Detroit branch of the NAACP.

It is hard to understate the immensity of this event. Upwards of 6,000 people attended this gala event at the Cobo Center in Detroit. There were five podiums set up, ringing the room, each with a long line of seats for dignitaries stretching out on both sides.

[Photo by Anne C. Savage, used with permission. Click image for a much larger version.]

The press conference before the event was attended not only by the award winners but such dignitaries as the Reverend Wendell Anthony, President of the Detroit branch of the NAACP, Ingrid Sanders-Jones, Senior Vice President of Coca Cola Global Community Connections and chair of the Coca Cola Foundation, Gerard Anderson, President, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of DTE Energy, U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Jr., Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, Bob King, President of the UAW, and Mark Reuss, President of General Motors North America.

[Photo by Anne C. Savage, used with permission.]

The dinner itself was attended by Congressmen Hansen Clarke and Gary Peters, Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, countless other state and national politicians, religious leaders, business leaders and community leaders from all around Detroit and the state as a whole.

This isn’t the greatest video but it gives you a sense for the immensity of this event:

Even President Barack Obama participated, sending a videotaped message to the attendees.

Ida B. Wells Freedom and Justice Award recipient Rachel Maddow concurs on the importance of the Detroit NAACP and this event in particular:

[Video by Bruce Fealk of the Rochester Citizen, used with permission.]

This year’s awardees were:

  • 2012 James Weldon Johnson Lifetime Achievement Awardee
    Rev. Dr. Julius C. Hope

    Pastor, New Grace Missionary Baptist Church & NAACP National Director Department of Religious Affairs
  • 2012 Great Expectations Awardee
    Atty. Nabih Ayad

    Founder, Arab American Civil Rights League
  • 2012 Great Expectations Awardee
    Rhonda Walker

    Founder and President, Rhonda Walker Foundation
  • 2012 Ida B. Wells Freedom and Justice Awardee
    Rachel Maddow

    Host, “The Rachel Maddow Show”
  • 2012 Mary White Ovington Freedom and Justice Awardee
    Maureen Taylor

    State Chairperson, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization

Mayor Bing had this to say about the event:

We come together once a year and are the same page for one night. Then we go our separate ways and have all these different agendas. The one constant in all of that is the Detroit NAACP.

Congressman John Conyers, Jr. about the importance of the work ahead of us:

We must be very careful over the next few months. We have to decide if we’re going to go back to the policies that got us into all this trouble or if we’re going to support the most farsighted president in our lifetime.

Remember this: all of these Super PACs will all of their money can only vote once!

Detroit NAACP president Rev. Wendell Anthony said this about the Emergency Manager law:

[Public Act 4] cries out to the NAACP and all other like-minded groups to stand by the guard post… This is one of the greatest treacheries we’ve seen… We do not believe that Michigan should become the new Mississippi… Today we celebrate, tomorrow we negotiate, and in the future, we may have to demonstrate.

I knew this was one of the signature events in Detroit but the immensity of it still was astonishing. It showed me and should show the rest of the country that the image portrayed by our conservative political opponents of Detroit as a city of corrupt, greedy and untalented non-leaders is a myth. There are many successful, thoughtful and caring leaders in Detroit, all of whom are working hard to restore this great place to its rightful position as a premier U.S. city.

It’s essential that we defeat the myths about Detroit and do all we can to help it back onto its feet and to put it on a path to greatness once again. The attendees at the Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner were clearly energized to do so and it gives me confidence that they will continue to lead the way.

More photos from the event including remarks made by keynote speaker U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder can be found HERE and HERE.