NAACP Freedom Fund banquet is Friday

It appears the racial divide in our nation is continuing to widen, thus making the role of organizations such as the NAACP more crucial than ever.

One of the nation’s oldest civil-rights groups continues facing critical issues some thought had been tempered over the last 50 years.

The ugly display in Charlottesville, Va., that resulted in the death of a young woman and injuries to several people was another reminder of racism and bigotry being played out before millions on television and social media websites.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, established in 1909 by W.E.B. Du Bois, Mary White Ovington and Moorfield Storey, has long focused on ending racial discrimination in all aspects of American life.

The local NAACP chapter was founded in 1919. Its president since 2014 is George Freeman Jr., a graduate of Howland High School. Freeman later attended Youngstown State University, completing coursework in business administration and management.

According to the chapter’s website, Freeman also trained in negotiation and arbitration in conjunction with the AFL-CIO and Ohio State University. He received certification in construction management and labor relations through Case Western Reserve University. He has been affiliated with numerous community organizations over the years, including the Warren Area Jaycees, Trumbull County Welfare Rights Organization, Warren-Trumbull Urban League Board of Directors and Black Elected Democrats of Ohio.

The Youngstown chapter’s main fundraiser – the Freedom Fund Banquet – for this year takes place at 7 p.m. Friday at the Choffin Career & Technical Center, 200 E. Wood St., in Youngstown. Note the venue change. For many years, the annual event was at the Mahoning Country Club in Girard.

The banquet’s focus is on equal-employment issues in the local community.

Cheryl Mabry, director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Cleveland Field Office since 2014, will be the guest speaker. The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.

According to her biography, Mabry brings a 27-year history with the EEOC to the Cleveland region. Her experience with EEOC includes systemic investigator, mediator, enforcement supervisor and training coordinator of Chicago’s district office. She also served in two separate roles in the agency’s Washington, D.C., office, including acting deputy director of that office and acting national outreach coordinator.

Mabry has investigated, supervised and negotiated multimillion-dollar cases against nationwide employers in the automotive manufacturing, construction and retail industries.

It should be noted blacks and Latinos are still underrepresented in those aforementioned industries.

Minority representation lags in the skilled trades, whose workers are involved in all aspects of construction. The next time you see buildings going up, check out the number of minorities involved in electrical work, HVAC installation, plumbing, metal work and operating heavy equipment.

As we approach 2018, one would hope such inequities in hiring and employment would become a thing of our nation’s ugly past. Sadly, that is not the case.

And that is why the NAACP, the national Urban League, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and other organizations that fight for the rights of black people still exist, and will continue to do so.

The Buckeye Review, the Mahoning Valley’s black-owned weekly newspaper, has had several forums this year on topics involving race relations, as has ACTION, the interdenominational ministry organization. The main mission of the Alliance For Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods is striving to “develop a community of diverse leaders committed to raising awareness and seeking solutions to overcome poverty, racism and social injustice,” says its website.

ACTION’s next meeting on institutional racism will be from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at Mount Zion Baptist Church, 827 Wilson Ave.

Race remains the elephant in the room that needs to be discussed in order to find a way to end intolerance and bigotry.

I’ve attended several Freedom Fund banquets, and the speakers and their topics always inspire me. I think you will be inspired, too, and you will be contributing to an organization that continues the fight for truth, justice and equality for everyone who calls this great nation home.

Banquet tickets are $45 each. To make reservations, call 330-565-2077 or the local office at 330-782-9777.

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