By Carla Thomas
“One nation, one dream” was the theme of this year’s San Francisco NAACP Freedom Fund Gala.
While an upbeat event with everyone in fine fashion, the evening’s speakers dealt with the somber reality that this is an era when there is a clear call to action. We live at a time when a Black civil servant like Sherrod can be unjustly fired with false evidence and a policeman can receive a two-year sentence for killing a young Black man.
Speakers at the Nov. 6 event, which commemorated the 101st anniversary of the organization, included NAACP CEO Ben Jealous, San Francisco NAACP President Dr. Amos Brown of Third Baptist Church, former Mayor Willie Brown, attorney John Burris, musical soloist Ryan Houston, and civil rights activist Shirley Sherrod as keynote speaker.
Throughout the dinner, Brown addressed the sentencing of ex-BART officer Johannes Mehserle and its impact on Oscar Grant’s family and the larger community.
Trailblazer awardee Burris somberly addressed the audience: “My heart is heavy from this case and the final decision,” he said. “What was profoundly hurtful is that seeking justice can be very unjust. I had to sit in court and listen to the judge degenerate the life of Oscar Grant. Many young people will be severely scarred by this judgment.”
In addition to Burris, NAACP Trailblazer awards were presented to Kofi Bonner, Regional Vice President of Lennar Urban; newly appointed San Francisco Fire Department Commissioner London Breed; Dwayne Jones of the San Francisco Housing Authority; Louise C. Jones, Southeast Community Commission Vice President for SF City and County; District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell; and Marcus Bookstore owner Dr. Raye G. Richardson. Ruth Dewson of Dewson’s Hats was also recognized, though not in attendance.
As Ben Jealous spoke, he recalled the kindness of Sherrod when he had to apologize for being misled by dishonest attacks on her by the media. “We are here amongst real heroes,” he said. “The measure of a person’s greatness is the grace they extend to another. And before I could finish my apology, she said,‘This is not a time when we can be distracted.’”
Underscoring the seriousness of the times in which we live, Jealous further stated: “The Tea Party has been organizing for two years, while we’ve been celebrating. Organization is the key, and we have to fight now.”
Sherrod explained that she had found herself in the fight of her life this year after conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posted a doctored video excerpt on his website of her speaking at an NAACP event, designed to show that she, a federal employee, was racially discriminating against a white farmer.
“The whole government was coming down on me, and Black people were condemning me,” she said. After she was forced to resign, the truth came out that the evidence was falsified.
Despite everything, she persevered. “Wait on the Lord and be of good courage, ¨” she said, quoting her favorite scripture from the Bible. “This is where my strength comes from, the 27th Psalm. ¨