NAACP celebrates 72nd annual Freedom Fund Banquet
Bethlehem’s own NAACP, which was founded in 1945, held its 72nd annual Freedom Fund banquet in order to celebrate with and commenced its community partners.
High-spirited President Esther Lee, on behalf of the chapter, started the banquet with sharing how happy she is to have such tremendous supporters. “Our issue is civil rights and making our representatives responsible for just that. They are not doing all that they can. I am glad our mayor is here as he is very good about coming through and showing his support,” Lee said.
The room was full of representatives from a multitude of churches, the Bethlehem police force, nonprofit organizations, Representative Steve Samuelson, Mayor Robert Donchez, school officials from both Liberty and Freedom high schools, keynote speaker Senator Vanessa Brown, and life-long supporters.
Samuelson, a long-time friend of Lee, praised her for her efforts to act on issues within the community, such as gun control, law enforcement, housing, education, voting, and much more. Samuelson said, “The Bethlehem unit has been hard at work for 72 years fighting against inequality and injustice. The city of Bethlehem understands the importance of equality within our community and I commend you on your continuous work on the area of racial equality. On behalf of the city I thank you for your tireless efforts to make our community the best place to work, live, play, and make a family. Your hard work is greatly appreciated. I have a proclamation I would like to make, declaring it NAACP Day in the city of Bethlehem.” Samuelson ended his opening speech by humorously presenting Lee with her very own Esther Lee Day proclamation.
Continuing over delicious food, keynote speaker Representative Brown, from Philadelphia, addressed the room with gratitude for the hard work Bethlehem’s NAACP chapter has done. Brown went on to explain what she has been working hard to organize in Philadelphia, such as the Pennsylvania Scholarship Fund, the newfound availability of a life-changing medication for the disease sickle cell anemia, and the Know Your Rights form now accessible to individuals who are not familiar with compliant behavior when in contact with an officer of the law, due to lack of education. “We would like to make sure ourselves ,by taking full responsibility for educating our people on what everyone should do. The best thing to always do is to comply and then complain. We went through that entire process to say we want you all to live outside of that situation, and then we will fight for you. Fighting for you is much easier when you are here rather than when you are gone.”
Brown wrapped up her speech by pointing out she is working diligently to decriminalize those currently incarcerated for marijuana, as a result of the now profitable sale of medical marijuana in dispensaries. Ending on a positive note, she said, “Whether you believe or do not believe, we need the help and support of everyone, including our local minorities, to make things right.”
An exploding cheer and whistles flooded the room in celebration of a successful banquet with support of state and local officials for the 72nd year.