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The West Volusia Branch of the NAACP celebrated its 28th annual Freedom Fund Banquet June 9.

“With over 500 attendees, it truly marked the most well-attended banquet yet,” said Sean King, West Volusia Branch vice president.

This year, the banquet took place at the newly opened The Center at Deltona, and was supported by individuals from across the county and beyond, under the leadership of Mike Williams, West Volusia Branch president.

During this election cycle, “The Power of the Vote and Every Vote Matters” was the theme, highlighting the fact that many people eligible to vote don’t.

Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis laid the groundwork for the audience by reviewing the importance of one vote, and the many races that were won with fewer than 10 votes.

In 2016, the Orange City mayor won by five votes and, in 2015, the Lake Helen mayor won by one vote.

“One thing that pops out was the statistics of individuals that do not vote. The age group 18-25 do not vote compared to ages 55 and up. These 25-year-olds do not vote because they think it does not matter. I believe that all age groups should vote, especially ages 18-25, in order to have a good government to lead our nation in the right direction,” said Nevaeh Hylton, age 11, West Volusia resident and shining star.

The audience was left with a resonating message from attorney Belvin Perry, former chief judge of the 9th Judicial Circuit.

“If we do what is right in the sight of our Lord, everything will be all right,” he stated, after reminding us of the many lives lost for the right to vote.

The program continued with an evening of historical highlights, such as the announcement of Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Day on the third Saturday in December, presented by state Rep. Patrick Henry, District 26. 

Legislation designating the day to honor the distinguished civil-rights martyrs was passed by the Florida Legislature in March, thanks to the efforts of Henry and state Sen. Dorothy Hukill.

Awards were presented to local leaders, including the Trailblazer Award earned by Alzada Bradley Fowler, who became the first African-American teacher to integrate Minerva Bond Long Elementary School in 1967 in Lake Helen.

Also earning this award was Albert L. Bouie, who was the first African-American male teacher hired at DeLand High School in 1968.

The President’s Award was earned by Jacqueline B. VonCasminski, longtime Volusia County public-school educator and now NAACP Education Committee chair. 

A Difference Maker of the Year Award was earned by “the beautiful” Althea Ross Chavers, a more-than-20-year matriarch in our community, who has mentored and guided youth at the Lacey Family/Spring Hill Boys & Girls Club in DeLand.

Another Difference Maker Award was presented to New Hope Baptist Church for all the work the church does in our communities to improve life for youth and families.

The youth, of course, stole the show, with the performance by talented violinist Leah Flynn, and the awarding of college scholarships to Erin Hannah Hudson and Nathan Whittaker.

Hudson, a Pine Ridge High School graduate, will be attending Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, and Whittaker, a dual-enrolled Daytona State College student from University High School who is completing his associate of arts degree, will then attend the New York Film Academy. 

The night was full of empowerment, engagement and entertainment for all.

Those interested in the West Volusia NAACP may call Mike Williams at 386-804-6136 or email peabodyi@aol.com

— Dr. Primrose Cameron, a longtime educator, lives in Orange City. Send email to cameronchronicleslive@gmail.com.

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