October 24th, 2012
NAACP branch holds Freedom Fund Dinner
Southern Dutchess NAACP branch officers, including Youth President Kent Copeland, Jr.; President Gwen Outlar Davis; Barbara McCaskill; Valerie Ruffin; and Jackie King, at the Chapter’s 46th Annual Freedom Fund Dinner Banquet at Chalet on the Hudson in Cold Spring, NY on October 20, 2012.
COLD SPRING - Vote. Vote. Vote. The theme of Saturday’s Southern Dutchess NAACP Branch Annual Freedom Fund Dinner was evident throughout the evening. With our country on the brink of a pivotal election, the Keynote Speaker could not have been more fitting. Randolph McLaughlin, a lawyer who has relentlessly fought in several area civil rights cases was invited to speak at the annual NAACP event, held this year at The Chalet in Cold Spring.
“The NAACP is the oldest historic civil rights organization in the country, and we are on the eve of a very critical election, one that represents some very stark choices,” said McLaughlin, the lead attorney in the case involving Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a 68-year-old African-American veteran who endured a host of racial slurs before being shot dead by police officers inside his home after he set off his medical alert pendant by accident. “I want to get out the importance message to all to vote and to stay engaged throughout the year; it’s not enough to just do so right before the election.”
Not only did the Banquet bring awareness to the pressing need to get involved politically, but it also focused on the importance of the NAACP along with continual need for support. Further, it honored an individual who is dedicated to moving forward the mission of the organization.
This years’ recipient was Francena Amparo, Dutchess County Legislator of the 14th District. In addition to her political responsibilities, Amparo has also been a paralegal for the past ten years. A longtime member of the NAACP, she was recognized for her arduous efforts to spearhead, along with the Southern Dutchess NAACP Chapter, the First Annual Health Fair. The chapter had designs on initiating a similar fair for many years; however, it was not until Amparo stepped up that the idea finally transformed to a reality.
“One of the goals of the organization this year was to have a health fair; it was also a goal of mine, so when they brought it up, I immediately said ‘sure’,” recalled Amparo, who made calls to countless vendors as well as assisted in coordinating yoga, zumba and a blood drive at what turned out to be a very successful endeavor and is slated to continue in the future. “The NAACP is so important because it allows people to know their rights, and when they are violated, they have a place to go.” Keeping with the nights’ theme, she added, “Our fight should not stop at the polls.” Amparo was awarded with a plaque, an honor she found humbling.
“All this just comes so naturally,” said Amparo. “But I was always taught when someone offers you a gift or an award you are supposed to accept it; this does feel good.”
In addition to Amparo, several other local dignitaries made a presence at the Annual Dinner event. Amongst the attendees were Pete Seeger, Paul Curran’s representative and Sean Patrick Maloney.
Still another celebratory undercurrent filled the night. The Southern Dutchess Chapter was marking 46 years of fighting for justice for all. Its President Gwendolyn Outlar Davis, relayed some words, once again alluding to the night’s theme.
“Do what you were meant to do; we can do so many things we used to not be able to do because people stood up, marched and walked,” said Davis. “We each have a responsibility to each other; we must encourage each other to vote; this is an important time in history, and we have to fight for our freedom others have worked so hard to get for us.”
It’s that liberation that McLaughlin referred to several times during his passionate speech. Taking his listeners through several decades leading to the birth of the right of the African-American to vote, McLaughlin provided details on such events as; “The White Primary,” The Civil Rights Movement and, most vividly, the Bill President Johnson signed in 1965, the Voting Rights Act.
Alluding to some of the past challenges this nation has faced, McLaughlin further noted how leaders always have to face a struggle dealing with backwards and forward motion. The effective ones meet those obstacles straight on, moving toward progress. He then concluded with some words to ponder.
“Vote as if your life depends upon it, because it does,” stressed McLaughlin. “Don’t let anyone tell you voting is not important; it’s really the only thing you have to do besides paying taxes; you can and must vote.”