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NAACP Celebrates Century of Service
NAACP Celebration; Century of Service

LIFELONG ACHIEVEMENTS—Pittsburgh NAACP members Connie Parker, second from left, and K.Chase Patterson, right, present Judges Livingstone Johnson, left, and Justin Johnson, second from right, with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 61st Human Rights Dinner and Centennial Celebration on May 21. Below: APRIL RYAN (Photos by Rossano Stewart)

As today’s society advances in technology and other various sectors, the African American community continues to face many of the same struggles that their ancestors faced and fought hard to overcome. While there have been some advances, there are still many steps left to be taken on the path to equality.

For a century, the NAACP Pittsburgh Unit has worked to make sure those traveling the path make it closer to the end. With the theme, “100 Years: Yet the Struggle Continues” the organization celebrated its accomplishments while renewing its commitment to its mission of ensuring political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all people while eliminating racial discrimination. The 61st Annual Human Rights Dinner and Centennial Celebration, was presented by EQT, May 21 at The Westin Convention Center Hotel.

“It was a prestigious honor to be apart of the centennial celebration and I am thankful for Constance Parker for giving me the opportunity to lead during this time and I’m thankful to the NAACP and the movement and those who came before me for this opportunity,” said K. Chase Patterson, Human Rights Dinner chair. “I think the dinner was phenomenal, our honorees were amazing, our keynote was relevant to our theme and I think our guests enjoyed themselves. And we raised a lot of money.”

NAACP Pittsburgh President Connie Parker echoed Patterson’s sentiments. She said, “I though it was beautiful. I appreciate all the work Chase has done and it was great.” She went on to say, “We have to look at our city—we need to do more and demand more. We’re at a standstill. There’s a lot more to be done and I will continue working as long as the Lord allows.”

More than 500 gathered for the evening’s celebration, which was ushered along by mistress of ceremonies Bofta Yimam, investigative reporter for WTAE. The program began with a reception, music by the powerful soul band, Lyndsey Smith & Soul Distribution, a presentation of the flags by the Boy Scouts of America Laurel Highlands Council Troops 649 & 760, and an invocation by Rev. Dr. Vincent K. Campbell, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in the Hill District.

In addition to the opening and welcome, the program included the recognition of 15 local students who were awarded approximately $25,000 in scholarships courtesy of the Pittsburgh NAACP and several partners, as well as a special presentation bestowed upon five individuals who were a century or more as a gesture of appreciation for their contributions to the city and their communities. Those recipients were Russell Washington, 100; Beatrice Coleman, 102; Elsie Henderson, 102; Emma Steadman Hughes, 102; and the late Lillian G. Allen who died in March only a half an hour after turning 107.

After a scrumptious meal, the celebration continued with remarks from Parker who thanked everyone for their prayers and support of her and the organization over the past few months, and said, “Let’s work together to move us forward. It’s not one of us; it’s all of us. If one’s down, we’re all down. We have to turn this city around.”

Following Parker’s remarks and a recognition of the evening’s sponsors by Corporate Co-Chairs, Quintin Bullock, DDS, of the Community College of Allegheny County, and Ellen Rossi in absence of co-chair Charlene Petrelli, both of EQT, the organization premiered its mini-documentary, “The Struggle Continues,” which was created by award winning producer Emmai Aliquiva’s Ya Momz House Inc., and highlighted the past, present and future of the Pittsburgh NAACP. With the song “Glory,” by John Legend and Common, playing in the background, the film featured images of protests and messages from past president Tim Stevens, Parker, Patterson and artist Marlon Gist, who recently unveiled a centennial painting honoring the organization.

“It’s time for our organization and ones like it to understand the critical importance of developing the next generation—grooming our next presidents, grooming our next executives, grooming our next CEOs,” Patterson remarked in the film.

Although the evening was filled with  many honors, it was the presentation of three prestigious awards to four remarkable men that stood out—the Judge Homer S. Brown Award presented to Stevens, activist and founder and CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project; the Young Professional of the Year Award given to Austin Davis, assistant to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and vice chair of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee; and the Bishop Charles H. Foggie Lifetime Achievement Award given to Judges Livingstone and Justin Johnson.

During their acceptance remarks, each of the honorees gave a message calling for action. Stevens, though humbled to receive the award and calling it “one of his greatest honors,” said with emotion, “NAACP family we’re losing our future, we’re losing our legacy. Yes, I graciously accept this wonderful award, but my work is not yet done. The work of the NAACP is not yet done. Nor is the work of anyone in this room done.”

Davis spoke of an obligation for older people to “ensure that the next generation is ready to step up and take on the role of leadership when the time comes” as well as a need for younger individuals to engage in politics to make sure that people “who look like us and represent us” are in office.

Judge Livingstone Johnson, who spoke on behalf of his brother, Justin, and himself, said, “This is bigger than many of us; it’s bigger than any two of us. So when I march away with a lifetime achievement award, I don’t march away with it for something Livingstone Johnson did or Justin Johnson did. …We’re here to represent all those people who were marching right with us throughout the years.”

It was not only the honorees who left an impressive message, keynote speaker April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Network and author of “The Presidency in Black and White: My Up Close View of Three Presidents and Race in America,” did as well.

Ryan spoke of the importance of the NAACP now more than ever. She stated that African Americans are suffering from disproportionate numbers at every level in every category—incarceration, unemployment, education, etc. And while she discussed the struggles, she also spoke of the hope for moving forward and the collaborative effort it will take.

“I see the LGBT community, the Hispanic community and the women’s rights community all using a blueprint that African Americans created and have walked away from,” Ryan said. “The struggle continues, but guess what, there’s hope… Understand it’s not just about the NAACP; it’s about the NAACP, it’s about you, it’s about us, collectively, (working) together.”

Patterson, who announced that this was his last year as chair of the event, said although he was saying goodbye to the experience, he would not be saying goodbye to the NAACP and called the evening “a personal celebration” for himself.

The dinner was just one of three events held in May to celebrate the NAACP’s centennial. Other events included an “Evening of Celebration” and the annual Freedom Sunday held at Bethel AME Church

Source:  By Ashley Johnson.

Date Published: 
Saturday, May 30, 2015 | 412-765-1820 |

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