Pictured from left are Statesville Mayor Costi Kutteh, Statesville Branch NAACP President Todd Scott, Assistant Secretary Marlene Scott, former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and her husband, Curtis Owens.


“Know the past … shape the future” was the call to action at Sunday’s Statesville Branch NAACP banquet.

But it was the present that weighed heavily on many in attendance at the 89th Anniversary Freedom Fund and Awards Banquet.

“I’ve been to so many funerals rather than graduations,” NAACP member Amari Grady, 25, said of the six friends he has lost in recent years to what he called “senseless” violence.

NAACP President Todd Scott charged the more than 300 in attendance to ask themselves, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” in the face of violence across the nation.

“This is not the same America of the past. Citizens have been shot for simply ringing a doorbell, or turning around in a driveway,” Scott said. “Jewish synagogues must have security every time their doors are open. We have seen so many school shootings of innocent children … yet our legislatures make it easier to get guns.”

Scott called for people to vote and hold elected officials accountable.

“We must do better, act better and above all be our brother’s keeper,” he said.

Statesville Mayor Costi Kutteh said these issues hit very close to home.

“Don’t think for a minute it’s not right here — it’s in Statesville. We have a great calling and mission,” Kutteh said.

Former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley delivers the keynote address at the 89th Anniversary Freedom Fund and Awards Banquet.
‘We must seize our power’

The keynote speaker for the event was Cheri Beasley, the first Black chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. She did not mince words calling for action to prevent gun deaths.

“We need gun safety legislation because our babies are dying,” she said. “We shouldn’t settle for anything else.”

Beasley also called out attempts to ban books, the teaching of Black History and attacks on the LGBTQ community.

“They call it culture wars. Teachers are being demonized for teaching ‘Critical Race Theory.’ But it is code, it is doublespeak for teaching Black History,” she said. “Some folks don’t want all of American history to be taught.”

She also discussed efforts to suppress voting, including the gerrymandering of districts.

“The power is here in this room. Folks would not be working so hard to suppress the right to vote if it did not matter,” she said. “We must seize our power. We must vote. All of us. In every single election.

“We must act now. All hell is breaking loose,” she added. “These young folks are counting on us to get it right.”

Awards and presentations

♦ Scholarships were presented to: Adamma Anukwuem, Halee Thomas and Alana Blair-Barnes.

♦ Lifetime NAACP membership was awarded to Patricia Dobbins.

♦ The Woody Woodard “Stick and Stay” Award was presented to NAACP member Debra Moore for her voter registration efforts and commitment to the organization’s mission. Sunday marked 10 years since Woodard passed away, and a moment of silence was held in his memory.

♦The Wilson W. Lee “You Can Make a Difference” Award was presented to NAACP 2nd Vice President Doug Hendrix for exemplifying the same passion in the fight for justice that Rev. Lee showed during his lifetime.

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