By Dan Yount
The Cincinnati Herald
In one of the largest of its events, about 1,500 guests attended the Cincinnati NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner 2023 on Saturday, Oct. 7, at Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati. The event is the local Civil Rights organization’s main fundraiser for the year. It featured an awards ceremony and keynote address by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York’s Eighth Congressional District, who was in January unanimously elected Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives after former House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stepped down.
Jeffries said he and Ohio District 1 Rep. Greg Landsman, of Cincinnati, are friends, and he has previously visited Cincinnati, once in campaigning for Landsman. Jeffries also mentioned his admiration for his friend, Hamilton County Commissioner Alicia Reece, and Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval.
Jeffries said in addition to addressing the political chaos in Washington, D.C., the country has to address widespread gun violence, maintaining free and fair elections, Civil Rights, and other issues that are the “cornerstones of our democracy…in these challenging and dangerous times.’’
He explained that during his four terms in Congress, he never thought he would be wearing a gas mask while in session, as he did during the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
The theme of the NAACP gala was “Thriving Together,” which was in line with Jeffries’ charge to the dinner guests.
He added, “We need a binding together that produces a truly colorblind America.
“We need to work together at the championship level as a team, and I can assure you if you are in the NAACP, you are on the right team.
“We need to stand up for racial justice, free and fair elections, women’s rights, affordable housing, reform of our criminal justice system, health disparities, lower drug costs, and equal accessibility to high education.
“It is time for us to stand tall for our democracy to make sure we keep our democracy. If we speak up and show up, we will prevail.”
The 2023 Freedom Fund Dinner Honorees were: President’s Award – David Whitehead, Game Changer Award – Robert Richardson, Sr., Wright-Overstreet Memorial Award -Judge Fanon Rucker, the Theodore M. Berry Award – Silverton Mayor John Smith, Empowering Education Award – Tyran Stallings, Individual Community Outreach & Partnership Award – Renee Mahaffey Harris, Non-Profit Community Outreach & Partnership Award – Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, the Corporate Community Outreach & Partnership Award – The Kroger Company, the Inspiring Innovator Award – Lincoln Ware, and the Distinguished Volunteer Award – Carmen Sanders.