Rev. John Faison Senior Pastor, Watson Grove Baptist Church

NASHVILLE, TN — It was quite a night as the Nashville Branch NAACP celebrated 100 years on Saturday, August 24th Freedom Fund Banquet. There were many people celebrated on this night. Guest arrived at the Hilton Nashville Downtown and gathered in the lobby for an exclusive reception.

At 7:15 pm, the program began with an introduction by Harriet Wallace, reporter and commentator for Fox 17, and the Mistress and Master of Ceremonies, 92Q radio personalities, Ms. Yolonda “Yolo” Beech and Mr. Ernie Allen, followed by a special music video presentation of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”.

One hundred years of celebration was revisited through the words of the Rev. John Faison, senior pastor of Watson Grove Baptist Church. He summed it up in the beginning of his “speech,” stating that when a preacher is asked to be a speaker, you’re likely to get a “preacher.” Faison said, “We’re all connected.” No matter who you are, where you came from and what you might think concerns you, “we’re all connected.”

Faison reminded the crowd of the story taken from the book of Esther, no one was allowed to see the king unless they were summoned to his presence. And, if you did come to see him, you would be killed. And, that included the Queen. However, in the time of need, and under the encouragement of her cousin, Mordecai, Esther decided she would go to talk to the King, “for such a time as this.” Queen Esther left saying, “If I perish, let me perish.”

With that thought, the words of Faison shifted to the works of those who have come before us in “fighting for what is right” and what the works of the NAACP is all about. He noted that he saw, in a publication, that he was named as a “prominent civil rights activist.” He was disturbed to think that the people not be confused in knowing that prominent activists are not just male preachers. He said, “I’m reminded of people like…” At this point he named several people in the community that have been activists in “such a time as this,” when speaking out about what’s fair to all people makes one do things that is a fight for justice for everyone. Those names he called were young, they were old, they were fighters, for the cause of justice!

Faison named, Chrystal Knight, D. J. Hudson, Phyllis Hildreth, Rasheedt Fatuga, Charlene Oliver, and Justine Jones, who later in the night received the Charles E. Kimbrough Renaissance 100 Medal of Honor Award. Jones, youth activist, took that opportunity to encourage others to stand up, wherever they can and fight for justice!

Other people recognized were the recipients of the Centennial Legacy Award, Atty. Charles W. Bone, Judge Sheila D.J. Calloway and Atty. Joy Kimbrough; the former NAACP presidents, all receiving a framed award, presented by the current NAACP President, Keith Caldwell and an Award of Recognition the Chair of the 2019 Freedom Fund Banquet, State Representative Brenda Gilmore. Honorary co-chairs included: Dr. James K. Hildreth, president/CEO, Meharry Medical College; Latrisha Jemison, vice president, Regions Bank; Tina Hodges, CEO, Advanced Financial; Butch Spyridon, CEO, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.; and Amy Adams Strunk, controlling owner, Tennessee Titans.

The program also included Dr. Teresa Smallwood, Leon Russell, Gloria Sweet Love, TN state Conference, NAACP; Amy Adams Strunk, Marvelyn Brown, Beverly Glaze Johnson, Mayor David Briley; Councils at large, Erica Gilmore and John Cooper and Rev. James Turner. Music and special presentation, “Her Story, Her Song,” provided by Patrick Dailey.