The importance of creating wealth for the betterment of the community and future generations, along with the need for people to take action and for young people to have the opportunity to step-up and step-out were a few of the themes at the Pittsburgh Unit of the NAACP’s 60th Human Rights Dinner held May 1 at the Westin Convention Center Hotel, in downtown Pittsburgh. The theme for the dinner, presented by EQT, was “Wealth: Affirming the Promise of Yesterday, Creating the Dreams of Tomorrow.”
The evening not only celebrated and recognized the hard work, dedication and achievements of the organization, but also the accomplishments of current and up-and-coming leaders. It also served as an introduction to a new administration that promises an NAACP that is thriving, moving forward, taking action and looking to make change.
Connie Parker, Pittsburgh Unit NAACP president, said, “I really thought it (the dinner) was fantastic and well done. There’s a message that has been sent out to our community. We have to move forwards and make change. We have the young people here to be able to do some work and we have the guidance of the seniors that have been here before and know what it’s about. But we all have to come alive to accomplish a mission that needs to be done to make this a number-one city.”
Human Rights Dinner Chair K. Chase Patterson, CEO and president of Corporate Diversity Associates LLC, said, “I couldn’t have asked for a better night. It was clear that people wanted to see what was going to happen. The future is in good hands and tonight was a clear demonstration of that.”
The annual affair, which saw a larger crowd this year than in most recent years, is said to have been attended by approximately 700 people, including community leaders, professionals and public officials.
“I’m here every year and what’s nice is that there was a few years back where this dinner wasn’t well attended and where the tables that were bought, the people weren’t even sitting at. You don’t see that anymore,” said City of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. “There’s a lot of ground work being done.
The NAACP has a very, very critical role to play, not just in the past, but for the future and it’s about building the consensus within the community to build an agenda and hold people like me accountable. And I know, with the leadership that’s in place right now, they’re working to make sure that’s guaranteed.”
Prior to the dinner, the evening began with a special reception where the Pittsburgh NAACP continued its 30 years of tradition of supporting youth in their pursuit of higher education by awarding several outstanding African-American high school and college students with scholarships.
Scholarship recipients were Jordan Maben, Tracy Thomas, Ranaja Kennedy, Chantel Young, Taylor Allen, Ciara Wallace, Jacquelyn Buckmaster-Wright, Melessie Clark, Alicia Green, Brittany Fitch, Kendra Crawford-Blue, Taylor McCorkle and Jordan Tyler.
Lisa Sylvester, WPXI-TV news anchor, served as the emcee for the dinner’s program. Other program participants included the Boy Scouts of America Troops 649 and 760 of the Laurel Highlands Council; Rev. Glenn Grayson, pastor of Wesley Center AMEZ Church; Rev. Brenda Gregg, founder and executive director of Project Destiny; and the much enjoyed musical entertainment of Lindsey Smith & Soul Distribution.
While guests received several messages of hope and empowerment, it was the remarks of keynote speaker 31-year-old Compton, Calif., Mayor Aja Brown that was a clear highlight of the evening.
Brown, the 13th and youngest individual to be elected mayor of the city, spoke on the importance of creating self-wealth and not depending on others to support our own communities, using the recent Donald Sterling and Los Angeles NAACP President Leon Jenkins controversy as an example.
In addition to wealth, Brown also spoke on the importance of young people getting involved with the modern day Civil Rights Movement and being committed to giving back to the community, along with the need for older generations to invest in and train young people to become successors, leaders for the future, so that organizations like the NAACP can continue to thrive.
“Let us be committed to building up the next generation and passing on the reigns of leadership today. The sustainability of your legacy and the Civil Rights Movement depends on it,” said Brown.
Along with Brown’s remarks, the evening included other memorable moments, such as a special viewing of the mini documentary directed by Emmy award-winner Emmai Alaquiva and produced by Njaimen Nijah titled “In Freedom’s Corner,” followed by an awards presentation honoring four individuals who have been dedicated not only to their professions, but also their communities by doing their part to uphold the NAACP’s mission of ensuring political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all people and to eliminate race-based discrimination.
The honorees were Alma Speed Fox, former Pittsburgh NAACP executive director and founder of Freedom Unlimited, who received the inaugural Bishop Charles H. Foggie Lifetime Achievement Award; Charles Powell, director of Diversity Affairs and Community Outreach for the Urban Redevelopment Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, and Cecile Springer, president of Springer Associates, who both received the Judge Homer S. Brown Award; and Sabrina Saunders, executive director of Strong Women, Strong Girls Inc., who received the inaugural Young Professional of the Year Award.
“The fact that this award exists just proves that the NAACP recognizes the contributions that young people are making,” said Saunders during her acceptance. “I am so excited to see how that will flourish in the future.”
Along with EQT Corporation, other corporate sponsors include Panera Bread, Highmark, PNC, Dollar Bank, Fifth Third Bank, First Commonwealth Bank, Giant Eagle, Pepsi, Coca Cola, People’s Gas, Westinghouse Corporation and the United Steelworkers Union.
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