By Carla Thomas
A great sense of pride and excitement surrounded this year's San Francisco NAACP's annual Freedom Fund Gala at the San Francisco Hilton Hotel to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Freedom Riders. Dr. Leslie B. McLemore, Director of the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute in Jackson, Mississippi served as the keynote speaker along with celebrity Master of Ceremony Ray Taliaferro of KGO Newstalk 810 talk show, a past president of the chapter.
Recipients of the SF NAACP Freedom Rider's Legacy Award were Carol Ruth Silvers, principal of the law offices of Carol Ruth Silver in San Francisco and Claude Albert Liggins of Los Angeles, who was previously active with CORE (The Congress of Racial Equality).
|Actor Danny Glover, Willie Brown, Dr.Annette Shelton|
Cassie Cook, SF NAACP Treasurer and Gala Chair said she marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in Birmingham, Alabama and considers herself a product of the Civil Rights Movement. “This is very special to me and I am so happy to see people of all cultures coming together and honoring the Freedom Riders.”
Branch president and original Freedom Rider from Mississippi, Dr. Amos Brown says he was inspired to integrate honoring the Freedom Riders into this year’s theme after speaking at the 50th Anniversary Celebration in Mississippi during the summer.
“When I saw those 1500 people that came for that reunion, I said then that I wanted San Francisco and all of California, since many couldn’t get there, to experience this piece of history. This is why I invited Dr. McLemore, who was the general chair of that celebration. I wanted to ensure that this history is shared with our community and it must be passed on to our children’s children.”
McLemore proudly stated, “Tonight we are honoring pioneers who have made a contribution to struggle and are still on the battlefield and there is nothing better we can do than to thank those who have made our future possible.”
Representing an interracial body of courageous people, the Freedom Riders were responsible for breaking racial barriers in interstate traveling. Traveling by bus throughout the South they risked their lives and experienced incarceration for their protests. Brown and McElmore have fought for civil rights for over six decades.
|SF NAACP Treasurer Cassie Cook & KGO Host Ray Taliaferro|
The Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., William "Bill" Campbell Chapter was honored with the San Francisco NAACP Presidential Medal of Freedom Award.
Recipients of the SF NAACP Philanthropist / Activist Award were Actor Danny Glover and Cheryl Dawson, Program Administrator of the Women’s Resource Center for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department. Dr. Martin Brotman, President of Sutter Health West Bay Region was presented the SF NAACP Humanitarian Award. Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church along with First A.M.E. Zion Church of San Francisco were awarded the SF NAACP Founders Awards for their pioneering achievements in the community for over a century.
“It’s great to have the organization recognize us with other churches involved in continuing social justice for all people," said Rev. Malcolm J. Byrd, Jr. of the First AME Zion.