St Paul NAACP: ‘We have huge mountains to climb once again’

102nd anniversary banquet honors local ‘Game Changers’

Vickie Davis and Jeffry Martin
Vickie Davis and Jeffry Martin

On Thursday, November 5, the St Paul chapter of the NAACP celebrated its 102nd anniversary with the annual freedom banquet held at the InterContinental St. Paul Riverfront Hotel (formerly the Crown Plaza Hotel). The freedom fund banquet was hosted by Reg Chapman from WCCO TV, and the keynote for the evening was provided by Dr. Josie Johnson, Minnesota’s first lady of civil rights.

The audience of close to 400 people came out to show their continued support for the 102-year-old civil rights organization, despite inconvenient parking conditions and construction that night, which was nothing compared to the decades of struggles for people of color in general and Black people in particular.

St. Paul NAACP President Jeffry Martin said, “I was really impressed by the way people showed up to show support for the NAACP, but more importantly, it was completely sold out. Even though a couple of people didn’t show up, every seat was purchased. What it really shows, even with all of the parking problems and construction, [is that] people will do what they have to do to show solidarity for one another.

“We know that we are in critical times,” continued Martin. “We know that we [have]…some huge mountains to climb once again. We are fighting some battles that we fought before, but we know that the winner method is that we fight it together. So I think that by showing the solidarity, we show some of the power people in the room that we’re not going away. We’re going to stay at it.”

During Dr. Johnson’s keynote address, she shared her observations about the times we are currently in: As the first Black president of the USA is consistently disrespected by some White people, we are still witnessing some of the same racial bigotry of old throughout the nation.

After her address, the MSR asked Johnson what it meant to keynote the freedom fund dinner: “This was very special. As I grow older, I realize how much we need to talk to each other as a people and try to do the things that we know we must. So I think that tonight with this group, it allowed us to decide what we need to do and go do it.”

Besides the dinner and keynote address, the awards presentation was the chapter’s opportunity to recognize several individuals with their Game Changer Awards. Recipients included University of Minnesota professor Dr. Samuel Myers, who is also the director of the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Also recognized was Nieeta Presley, executive director of the Aurora/St. Anthony Community Development Corporation, and Dr. Charles Crutchfield, Sr., the first Black obstetrician and gynecologist in Minnesota, who has delivered over 10,000 babies and continues his community service.

Darrell Pridgen, a retired Ramsey County probation officer, received an award for his work in public safety. The Honorable George T. Stephenson of the 2nd Judicial District was recognized for his work in criminal justice. The voting rights award went to Mark Haase of Restore the Vote MN.

The Lifetime Achievement award was given to Vickie Davis, who has more than a handful of accomplishments and awards for service, one of which is her former term as president of the St. Paul NAACP. After accepting her award, Davis said, “It’s all about service. If we can’t serve others, then we are not doing the most we can with our lives.”

Dermatologist Dr. Charles Crutchfield, II, son of Dr. Charles Crutchfield, Sr. and an MSR columnist, said of the event, “This is a tremendous evening. I’m proud that my family is here. It’s been educational and it’s a great way to honor some of the great leaders in our state.”


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