Each semester I greet the students who file into myFebruary 23, 2017
Sunday, February 12th was the birthday membership celebration of the Duplin County NAACP. An excited crowd met at the First Missionary Baptist Church of Warsaw and heard a rousing speech by Rev. Dr. Michelle A. Laws, former Executive Director of the NC NAACP.
Professionally, Rev. Dr. Michelle Laws is a consultant specializing in health disparities research and health communications and promotion program development and evaluation with a particular focus on improving health outcomes for poor and African American women and children. Rev. Dr. Laws’ theology is rooted in her upbringing in the United Holy Church and is greatly influenced by teachings from the master theologian and preacher Rev. Dr. William Turner, Jr. and her pastor Rev. Dr. Kenneth Ray Hammond, Sr. Pastor at Union Baptist Church in Durham NC where she serves as an ordained associate minister.
Comparing her courage and commitment to social justice to that of the late Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm, Dr. E. Lavonia Allison (long-time civil rights fighter and chair-emeritus of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People) once characterized Mrs. Laws as “unbought and unbossed.” She attributes her political prowess to her spiritual mother, the late Senator Jeanne Lucas, the first black woman to serve in the North Carolina senate and Dr. E. Lavonia Allison the chair emeritus of the legendary Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People.
The program highlighted 108 years of struggle for justice and equality by Black people led by the NAACP. Her presentation covered historical challenges that Black people have faced for hundreds of years. She recounted the blood sacrifices, including widespread lynchings and other abuses that were commonly visited upon Black people during the formative years of the NAACP. During the rally, there was strong appeal made to support Black media and other Black businesses.
It must also be noted that on Saturday, February 11th, the Duplin County NAACP led a committed contingency of members and supporters to the 11th annual HK on J (Historic Thousands on Jones St.) march for freedom and justice. The attendance was estimated to be in excess of 80,000 marchers, its largest march ever.
The birthday rally included inspirational songs and messages that continue to speak to the struggle for equal rights. The Greater Six Runs Male Chorus led the songs of struggle that the NAACP is known for. One of the songs was Lift Every Voice & Sing, the “Negro National Anthem.” Also sung was a civil rights staple, We Shall Overcome. Many youths were in attendance and participated in the program. Two were presented Life Membership Plaques.
Duplin County NAACP won the 2016 North Carolina “Mother of the Year” contest and two members received complimentary trips to the 2017 Black Image Awards that was held on Saturday, February 11th.
Numerous special guests were recognized as business, civic and political leaders, as well as being members of various fraternities and sororities.
Although the rally was inspirational, many in attendance lamented the fact that attendance at this year’s Birthday Rally fell short of previous rallies and pointed out that historical gains by Black people were under unrelenting attack and that the NAACP needs and deserves vigorous support from all segments of our communities in its efforts to protect past gains.
Rev. Dr. Michelle Laws believes that one of the greatest tragedies of social progress is for people to ascend the social and economic ladder and forget those who are left behind by ignoring the plight of the poor and less privileged. Her service to the community has won her several prestigious awards and honors including the 2016 Ebonettes “Dare to Make A Difference” Community Service award’ 2010 NAACP President’s Award for Outstanding Leadership; 2010 Women on the Move award from the Charlotte Mecklenburg NAACP; 2010 Woman of Distinction Award; and the 2009 WCHL Village Pride and 2009 Indy Award.
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