Columbia, SC â€“ Civil and human rights advocates from communities across the state of South Carolina will gather Friday, June 27, 2008 in Columbia for the 30th Annual State Freedom Fund Celebration honoring the work of those who lived and died to make life a bit easier for people of color and the poor. Many of those expected to gather at the Carolina Coliseum will meet Dick Gregory in person for the first time but will leave with a new found appreciation for this citizen activist.
During his career, Gregory has worn the titles of comedian, actor, health guru, agitator, businessman, author and gained distinction in each role. However, he may be best known for his close involvement in the civil rights movement. Gregory marched through the South alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In May of 1963, following a march against school segregation in Birmingham, Alabama, Gregory was arrested along with many others including children. During that period of detention he suffered what he describes as "the worst whipping of my life" at the hands of police as he attempted to protect a young boy from being pulled out of a jail cell. Despite ongoing threats of violence, he would continue to use his celebrity to bring attention to oppression and injustice.
"We are elated to have Mr. Gregory as the featured speaker at the Freedom Fund Celebration this year because of his admirable record on human rights in the U.S. and around the world", said Lonnie Randolph, president of the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. "Dick Gregory has done more than speak against injustice; he has invested himself and his career in championing the causes of the poor, the needy and the disregarded."
The State Freedom Fund Celebration recognizes a turning point in South Carolinaâ€™s own segregationist history brought about by Briggs vs. Elliott, the Clarendon County case that challenged the lawfulness of â€˜separate but equalâ€™ statutes. The Briggs case went on to become a leading component of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. A salute to the plaintiffs and the lawyers involved in Briggs vs. Elliot remains a highlight of the Annual Celebration.
The Freedom Fund Celebration bears the theme "Power Beyond Measure". Special musical performances and the Coronation of the NAACP Woman of the Year add to the elegance of the event. Earlier this week, the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP announced the names of the five South Carolinians to receive Presidential Citations during the celebration on June 27.
The awards will be presented to recognize service to others in the areas of Education Advocacy, Legal Advocacy, Civic Advocacy, Journalism, and Leadership and Human Rights Advocacy. The awards have become a tradition at the annual event. The 2008 recipients are Dr. Andrew Sorenson, president of the University of South Carolina; M. LaNell Kohn, a educator for over 36 years; Joseph M. McCulloch, Jr., a Columbia civil rights attorney; Yvonne Wenger, a journalist with the Post and Courier; and Diane Wilson, executive director of the SC African American Tobacco Prevention Network.
Dr. Lonnie Randolph, Jr., president of the South Carolina State Conference, read the list of recipient and commended each for their efforts to help others. "These awards are not given as a result of a individualâ€™s personal or professional achievement, but in recognition of their use of their position or abilities to benefit those in need", said Randolph. "It will give me particular pleasure to bestow this honor upon these worthy individuals".
The evening begins with a 5:15 PM dinner reception followed by the program at 7:00 PM. The Freedom Fund Celebration is a benefit to support the ongoing civil rights work of the South Carolina NAACP. Tickets are only available in advance online and at the following locations:
South Carolina Community Bank (803) 733-8100; State NAACP Headquarters (803) 754-4584; Jamison Pharmacy (803) 536-2165; Clemons Realty (843) 722-2097; Greenville Branch NAACP (864) 235-3327.