Four speakers set for NAACP banquet

One of the Mahoning Valley’s oldest civil-rights organizations is celebrating its 98th annual major fundraising event this month, and its 2016 theme seeks to challenge the community to work harder than ever before to close the education gap that plagues the area’s minority populations.

The Youngstown Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People usually has a single keynote speaker address the chapter’s theme at the banquet. Judge Nathaniel R. Jones, retired from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and a Youngstown native, performed that task in 2012. Judge Jones, recipient of the national NAACP’s Springarn Medal, awarded annually for the highest achievement of an American of African descent, will be honored here locally Wednesday at DeYor Performing Arts Center downtown with the Simeon Booker Award for Courage.

This year, however, the local NAACP chapter will have four guest speakers who will address this year’s theme: “Advancing Education Equity and Excellence.”

The speakers are Herman J. Felton Jr., president of Wilberforce University, the nation’s oldest private historically black university in Wilberforce, Ohio; Krish Mohip, CEO of the Youngstown City School District; Thomas Humphries, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber; and Michael Beverly of Youngstown State University’s Multicultural Services.

The banquet will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 14 at The Georgetown, 5945 South Ave., Boardman.

George Freeman is chapter president. He sent me a letter explaining why four speakers were chosen and, in particular, why these four were selected.

Freeman said the speakers have a specific skill set that addresses some of the needs and desires the NAACP wants to see met in the black community.

“They will speak on how supported and empowered families can advance education equity and excellence and, in the process, ensure our children are prepared for the workforce, entrepreneurship, the skilled trades and college in this world competitive market,” Freeman wrote.

The chapter plans to use funds raised from the event to carry out what it calls its national “game-changers” in these six areas:


Economic sustainability


Public safety and criminal justice

Voting rights and political representation

Expanding youth and adult engagement

Before joining Wilberforce as its 21st president in July, Felton was the senior vice president, COO and vice president of institutional advancement at Livingstone College, where he provided executive-level leadership in the areas of strategic planning, fundraising, management, administration and assessment while overseeing all day-to-day operations for the college, according to the university’s news release.

He received his law degree from the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida, and his bachelor’s degree in political science from Edward Waters College. He also served in the Marine Corps for eight years.

Humphries has been the chamber’s CEO and president since 1997. He oversees the chamber’s operational functions and initiates, leads and facilitates the overall strategic plan of economic development and member service issues and promotes and enhances the chamber’s image throughout the service region.

Mohip has been CEO of the school district since June. In September, he gave his recovery plan for the district to the Youngstown Academic Distress Commission, which, along with Mohip, will devise a plan to raise the schools’ academic standing to meet, and hopefully exceed, state standards. In 2010, the state placed the district in academic emergency.

Beverly, a Youngstown East High School graduate, is a senior coordinator of Multicultural Student Services at YSU, where he also received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in history. Before assuming his role as a coordinator of the Center for Student Progress, he served as the attendance/student support administrator at Eagle Heights Academy, the former charter school that was housed in the Youngstown South High School building on Market Street.

Freeman says the local NAACP chapter also continues working with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Civil Rights to continue “fighting racial discrimination in employment and education” in the Valley.

The chapter most recently has voiced its disapproval of a black lawyer who was chastised and found in contempt of court by a city judge for wearing a Black Lives Matter button in his courtroom, and has repeatedly complained that the city school district has failed to provide appropriate educational opportunities for its disabled students.

Tickets are $45 each. Call the local office at 330-782-9777, or email

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at