“When We Fight, We Win!” was the theme of the Charles County NAACP’s 32nd annual Freedom Fund Gala held Saturday at Middleton Hall in Waldorf, where several community members were inducted into the branch’s 2019 hall of fame during a ceremony to celebrate 110 years of national civil rights history.
“Because of you, this is a success,” branch president Dyotha Sweat said in front of several hundred guests, emphasizing the need for younger and older generations to be game changers and take action. “When we fight together, we win. We are very resilient, as a people, regardless of what comes before us. There is nothing that we cannot overcome if we put our minds to it.”
The ceremony, emceed by branch second vice president Joe Sampson, featured a catered dinner prepared by Chef Kendall Selby, live music and dancing. Among the dignitaries that took part in the celebration was Wandra Ashley Williams from the NAACP National Board of Directors, who serves as a regional representative for Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
Williams said the “NAACP’s agenda is still essential today as it was 110 years ago,” which entails advocating for basic elements like excellent education for children, affordable health care, living wage jobs, a fair justice system and clean environment. However, given such “challenging times in America,” members of the black community are “faced with a government intended on stripping away” their rights and thus, “encountered with the threat of access to those basic elements,” she said.
Because most “Americans of color” have to endure “discrimination based on race,” Williams said it’s important that the NAACP and its local units continue to “ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights.” She encouraged those in the audience to volunteer and help the organization pursue its vision.
“When we come together, we win,” said Williams. “It’s so important that we continue to fight especially in these times. … We’re not [too far beyond] the ‘60s, unfortunately. We’re having to deal with some of the same issues over and over. We need you because we cannot do this alone.”
The award categories included youth, community and business empowerment as well as the Unsung Freedom Fighter award which was bestowed on 95-year-old Mary Louise Booth Webb, a Bryantown native who currently serves as vice president of the African American Heritage Society of Charles County.
Other residents and local groups recognized for their contributions to the county, and throughout Maryland, were Krystle Johnson, North Point High School alumna Kristinee Tate, Maurice J. McDonough High School junior Caleb Wiggins, The Arnold House co-founders Arline and Clarence Arnold, Pomonkey High School Alumni Association, Phi Alpha Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. and Affordable A-1 Printing. Each honoree received an award plaque in addition to proclamations from county and state government leaders including Sen. Arthur Ellis (D-Charles) and Del. Edith Patterson (D-Charles).
As a “minority-majority” agency dedicated to carrying out “the business of the organization” in the county, Sweat said fighting for equality and diversity is part of its long history that is “not going to stop” on her watch.
“We are here to honor some wonderful people that have done some wonderful and great things here in Charles County,” Sweat said. “This is a celebration. I want that to resonate — when we fight together, we win.”
Webb, author of “Life on the Farm with Grandma and Grandpa,” received a standing ovation while she made her way to the stage. She also took the podium to express her gratitude after receiving her award.
“Ms. Webb is the embodiment of a life of service,” said Sampson, having interviewed her during a recent episode of the NAACP branch’s “African American Voices of Charles County” series on YouTube. “And at 95, she is determined to never stop learning.”