Rev. W.T. Morris was named the NAACP Man of the Year at the 2013 Freedom Fund Banquet, held April 20 at Best Western State Fair Motor Inn, 32nd and Limit.
The announcement was one highlight of the annual event, sponsored by the Sedalia-Pettis County branch of the NAACP.
Lifetime Member awards were presented to Dr. William Smith of Marshall and Elder Noah Eugene Poole of Sedalia.
“Freedom is not free; we still have to fight on,” Poole said in his acceptance of the award.
In addition to his lifetime membership dues, Dr. Smith presented a $500 check to the local chapter, according to Bill Shobe, NAACP membership chairman.
World traveler and Sedalian Betty Hopkins was presented with a bouquet of flowers and an award.
Leonard Butler was recognized with an Outstanding Community Service Award.
Stephen Boggs served as emcee and musician for the event. Sedalia Mayor Elaine Horn attended the banquet and was seated at the head table with Bill Shobe, Rev. Morris, Boggs, Dr. Murphy, Clyde Williams and Dr. Chalfant.
Guest speaker for the banquet was Dr. Angelique Murphy, chief medical officer for Katy Trail Clinics.
In her speech, Dr. Murphy noted that “we are divinely created to heal ourselves, but you have to allow it to happen,” adding that “you are the best evaluator of yourself. You are the authority on you. We get to choose how happy and healthy we are,” she said.
She also noted that consuming locally-grown food will help alleviate allergies.
Alma Fernando, who volunteers at Amigos de Cristo, was presented with a $500 scholarship from the NAACP. Fernando, who also serves as a Girl Scout leader, plans to attend School of the Ozarks College at Point Lookout, Mo., this fall.
The NAACP is still needed today, noted Dr. Rhonda Chalfant in her remarks. “We work primarily to educate people” on the fact that discrimination still occurs today. “The work of the NAACP is not over, the work will probably never be over, given human beings as the flawed creatures we are,” she said.
“The act of voting, a right that so many people struggled and some died to secure, is under attack,” she said, citing difficult registration, reduced voting hours and early voting restrictions. “Institutional discrimination is still very much here.”
The NAACP regularly meets with city and county officials, is active in the Missouri Prisoner Re-entry Program and stresses black literature and black history education in the schools, Dr. Chalfant said. The NAACP also conducts voter registration drives. “We actively get involved in helping people register to vote.”
The NAACP distributes scholarship money to worthy recipients, as evidenced by the one given to Fernando at the dinner. The NAACP also gives to the Salvation Army, the public administrator’s office and the Community Cafe locally.
“The right to a fair and speedy trial, a right guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, is regularly disregarded, and yes, right here in Sedalia, Mo.,” Chalfant stated.
“We do a lot of things in Sedalia, because they are necessary,” Chalfant said. “Active participation is really what makes things happen.” Photos by Randy Kirby, Sedalia News Journal.