By Mark Farkas
Alexandria, VA – “Thriving Together” was the theme of the Alexandria NAACP’s 90th Anniversary Freedom Fund Gala, held last month at the West Hotel.
“Every generation has to do its part to make sure the republic gives everyone an opportunity to participate,” said keynote speaker Rep. Jennifer McClellan of Virginia’s 4th Congressional District and the first Black female elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Commonwealth.
With a diverse crowd of about 400 making up a virtual who’s who of Alexandria City activists, office holders, school board members, and state-level NAACP leaders, the dinner celebrated the chapter’s founding on October 10, 1933, at a mass meeting held at the Alfred Street Baptist Church.
“This night represents a period of time where we can stop and not only take a look back on those that have come before us and the footprints that we stand in, but it also gives us the opportunity to reflect who we are as a people, as a community,” said Alexandria NAACP Branch President Darrlynn Franklin in an interview.
Facing it down owning up to the city’s past, impacting its present state, and trying to change the future were two organizations and three individuals selected for community service awards at the dinner. The honorees included for their ongoing efforts this past year were:
- The Alexandria Community Remembrance Project (ACRP) for its citywide initiative to educate citizens about Alexandria’s history of racial terror hate crimes and to work toward creating a welcoming community through equity and inclusion
- Concerned Citizens Network of Alexandria for providing support to disenfranchised city populations
- Ebonee Davis for her work with the Virginia Theological Seminary’s Reparations program
- Kiki Davis and Joe Wenger for their Racial Healing Seminars held for city residents
“Every honoree is teaching us something about us as a people and about our community and how we only thrive when we thrive together,” said Franklin.
With veteran DC Journalist Tony Perkins emceeing, the evening moved back and forth quickly between the intersection of Alexandria’s and the nation’s past and present struggles over race. The currently divided political climate of the country was also front and center with the keynote speaker issuing a plea for activism.
“It’s up to us to make sure the next generation understands their history and more importantly their role in our future. It’s up to us to make sure that we vote like our lives and our democracy depend on it, because they do,” said Rep. McClellan. “I need you to preach to your children, and your grandchildren, ‘cause I’m scared. We’re in a backlash, and that’s why the NAACP is more important than ever. So 90 years….we have come a long way but we’re backsliding. We’ve got to dig deeper. Find the resiliency and resolve our ancestors had. Recognize each and every one of us are our ancestor’s wildest dreams, and make sure the dream doesn’t die. And because of the Alexandria NAACP, it won’t.”
Read the unabridged story with many more photos online at thezebra.org.