In celebration of its 104th anniversary, the Chester Branch NAACP celebrated last Friday night with a banquet and awards ceremony at the Clarion Hotel in Essington.
A host of scholarships and awards were presented to students and community members for academic achievements and community contributions.
Temple Baptist Church Deacon Lloyd Hudson served as master of ceremonies and remarks were offered by Rep. Thaddeus Kirkland (D-159), of Chester; Dr. Gregory Shannon, Chester-Upland School District superintendent; and Chester Councilman William “Al” Jacobs.
The dominant theme of the evening was the importance of education and family, which was woven throughout each of the speeches.
Shannon spoke of the differences between the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and today’s struggles. He also encouraged Chester youth to return to district schools.
“I implore you to engage with a young person every day,” Shannon said, “and come back to the Chester-Upland School District because we are doing great things.”
Jacobs, a lawyer, also spoke about the importance of education and working together to achieve goals. He also encouraged city residents to attend Council meetings.
“We are not going to quit,” Jacobs said. “With God’s will and grace, we will continue to serve the people of Chester.”
Chester Branch’s second vice president and membership chair, Ella Mae Gaines McFarland, thanked members in attendance and encouraged others to join. She said the NAACP is an advocate for all in the community.
Prior to the awards ceremony, Chester Branch President Darrell V. Jones said he was proud of the accomplishments of all the honorees.
“Success does not go unnoticed,” Jones said. “Correct your children and do not baby them. Teach them right from wrong. Chester is a great historical city and we produce great children like the ones we are honoring tonight.”
Student recipients, all college-bound seniors from the Chester-Upland STEM High School, included: Daija A. Davis (The Gwendolyn J. Foster Youth Award); Taquyyah R. Bond (The John Lee Mathis Youth Award); Jalaya S. Alston (The Delores R. Shelton Youth Award); Justin E. Platt (The Cora Lee Dixon Youth Award); and Kamri D. Staples (The James E. Cottrell Youth Award).
Adult honorees included Roderick T. Powell (The President’s Award); Solomon Johnson (The John Shelton, Sr. Award); Marsha Taylor-Robertson, Dietra Taylor-Carroll and Karen Taylor-Stillis (The Louis Brown Freedom Award); Imam Haneef Mahdi (The Cecil W. Bond Award); and Nora Melendez (The George T. Raymond Freedom Award).
A highlight of the evening was the award presentation to Powell, a community activist who has been blind since age nine. Powell read his award plaque — that was totally inscribed in Braille – out loud to the delight of the audience.
“There are a lot of good things happening in Chester,” said Powell. “Our community is worth saving; Black and white working together. We are all in this together.”
Prior to presenting the student awards, A. Jean Arnold, the branch’s education chairperson, told the audience of several hundred that the renaissance in the city has begun.
“There is a beautiful thing happening,” she said. “There are people doing good things all over Chester and if you are not involved with a young person, please do, because the dividends are immense.”