The leader of the North Carolina NAACP urged his members to go back to their communities and refocus on their work during the 79th state convention of the civil rights organization in Fayetteville on Saturday.
About 92 delegates attended the proceedings at the Bordeaux Convention Center.
This year’s convention theme was “Refocus, Reset and Revive: Building Power and Moving Forward.”
“How are we focusing our branch?” Executive Director Da’Quan Love asked the 120 or so people who attended the organization’s Freedom Fund Awards reception. “Refocusing on the mission and not the politics. Refocusing on the issues that impact our community. What is that local issue that your branch can be the expert on? Can be the leader on? Refocus. It’s not all about having all 17 committee members on an executive committee.”
Love, the former executive director of the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP, said the organization needs to acknowledge and celebrate the power of the state conference.
“You know the theme of our convention this year is revive, refocus, reset and revive,” he reminded his listeners. “That’s a lot of change. But even with the change, we’ve got to acknowledge the good stuff that we’re doing right now. And my biggest challenge in this North Carolina State Conference — our biggest challenge — is not that we’re not doing the work, ya’ll. We don’t talk about how well we’re doing it.
“The work that we do at the NAACP is not just about laws changed,” Love said. “It’s not just about getting laws amended. It’s not just about standing up for what’s right. It’s about making the little difference in the lives of the people in our communities that we may never ever see, know or touch. … At the end of the day, what we do as a state conference, as local branches, is to improve the lives of Black North Carolinians.”
The convention, hosted by the Fayetteville branch of the NAACP, marked the state conference’s first convention since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The convention ended Saturday evening with the presentation of the traditional Freedom Fund Awards.
Retiring U.S. Congressman G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat who has represented North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District since 2004, was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award. Butterfield could not attend because he was speaking at another NAACP meeting.
Closer to home, a Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins, who has announced that she will retire on Jan. 17. She is the first woman to serve as the city’s permanent chief of police.
Hawkins, who has headed the Fayetteville Police Department since August 2017, also was not present because of a meeting in Texas.
The convention was staged as the state and nation prepare for elections.
“It is a challenge simply because of the fact that all of our units right now are doing the important civil rights work of getting voters out to the polls, making sure Black voters are able to get to the polls for early voting, absentee, etc.,” Love said of organizing the convention in a news release.
The news release said that Fayetteville was chosen to host the convention because of the city’s diversity.
Wayne County was among the locations initially considered as the convention site, but hotels there as well as in other potential locations said they could not accommodate the lodging needs. There also was the lingering threat of COVID-19, Fayetteville NAACP President Jimmy Buxton said.
“We said we will do it,” Buxton said of Fayetteville. “It has been a lot of work.”
Convention delegates unanimously passed a resolution affirming support for protecting Black residents of Burke County.
In late March 2021, the state NAACP filed a lawsuit seeking the removal of a Confederate monument in front of the Burke County courthouse, where protests have been staged for several years and intensified after the murder of Fayetteville native George Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police officers.
Love said the NAACP must stand against the masses to be a voice of the future.
“And that’s the work of the NAACP,” he said during his keynote address. “Standing up against hatred and discrimination, where it raises its ugly head. But moreover, being focused on making an impact on the lives of everyday people.”
Four other awards were presented Saturday:
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView. He can be reached at email@example.com.