NAACP speaker urges: ‘If you know it’s wrong, say it’s wrong’
FAIRLEE — Empowered and inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, the Rev. Joan Brooks on Saturday night called for a renewed battle against injustices.
“How many of you are willing to stand up? If you know it’s wrong, say it’s wrong,” Brooks admonished those attending the Kent County branch of the NAACP’s annual Freedom Fund Scholarship Banquet.
We all have the drum major instinct — the desire to be first, the desire to be important, the desire to lead the parade. Brooks said that desire should be harnessed for good, “to use that instinct to lift everyone around you.”
In a fiery speech, she encouraged members of the audience to be a drum major for peace, a drum major for justice and a drum major for righteousness.
It has been nearly 50 years since King delivered his “Drum Major Instinct” sermon from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where he encouraged the congregation to seek greatness through service and love.
King was assassinated April 4 1968, two months to the day after his “Drum Major Instinct” sermon.
In the half-century that has followed, King’s dream of equality for all has not been fully achieved, said Brooks, who is pastor of New Revised United Methodist Church in Taylor’s Island (Dorchester County).
“Racism is still alive” throughout Kent County, said Brooks, identifying by name all five incorporated towns and some hamlets.
She demanded that the school district do a better job of preparing all students for state tests and that mediocrity from the superintendent not be accepted.
She called on the public to insist that elected officials — singling out county commissioners William Pickrum, Ron Fithian and Bill Short — “serve the people of Kent County ... regardless of where they come from.”
Next year is an election year. Vote for change, Brooks said.
“Stop having a slave mentality. Speak up and ask questions,” she said.
“I’m black and I’m proud. ... I’m not going to stand for what my father stood for,” Brooks said in closing. She received a standing ovation. “The guest speaker was very insightful in her comments. We are all responsible for our community,” said Pickrum, president of the Kent County Commissioners, who was there to present a proclamation to the NAACP.
He said he was only one person, “but one voice can be loud,” and he promised to share Brooks’ comments with his colleagues.
Bill Flook, president of the Democratic Club of Kent County, said Brooks “reminds us that we have a lot of work to do, and we do it best if we do it together.”
He announced that Ben Jealous, former president and CEO of the national NAACP, will stop in Kent County next month as he campaigns for governor of Maryland. Jealous will be at the Clarence Hawkins Community Center in Worton at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4 as part of the Democratic Club of Kent County’s “Meet the Candidates” series.
Larry Samuels, a member of the Kent County NAACP branch, summarized 100 years of accomplishments of the organization. Founded in 1909, it is the largest and most widely recognized civil rights organization in the United States.
The NAACP’s principal objective is to ensure political, educational, social and economic equality of minority group citizens and elimination of racial prejudice.
Brooklynn Scott has joined the youth chapter of the NAACP at Clark Atlanta University in Georgia, where she is a freshman.
Scott and Cameron Butler, a freshman at Morgan State University, were the recipients of $500 scholarships from the Kent branch. Both are 2017 graduates of Kent County High School.
Criteria used to select the scholarship recipients included academic achievement and involvement in their communities and “social causes,” Samuels said in his introduction.
Butler, who is majoring in business administration, thanked the NAACP. He said he was “off to a first-rate start” at Morgan.
Scott is majoring in criminal justice and hopes to attend law school after she earns an undergraduate degree. She graduated from high school with Distinguished Honors (cumulative grade point average of 3.67 or higher) and received one of the Chester Valley Ministers Association Humanitarian Awards at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast in January.
Scott was unable to attend Saturday night’s banquet, but sent a letter of thanks that was read by her mother Sharone.
In her letter, Scott said she hoped “to be a person that makes a difference in the world.”
She promised to “work hard and prove my- self worthy” and said she was “looking forward to helping a student one day like she has been helped.”
Earlier in the program, Judith Kennard and Margie Baker received service awards.
Members of Aaron Chapel United Methodist Church, near Rock Hall, nominated Kennard for her faithfulness, commitment and visibility in her church and community. She has served as usher, trustee and treasurer of Aaron Chapel; is a former member of the Kent County Board of Elections; and recipient of the Lifelong Learner Award from the state of Maryland.
Baker, who attends Bethel AME Church in Chestertown, is retired after more than 40 years as a teacher in Kent County schools. She has been a volunteer and board member with the Kent County Food Pantry, served on the boards of Upper Shore Aging and Commission on Aging, assisted with voter registration and has held many offices in her church.
The Potter’s House Ministries hosted Saturday night’s banquet. Friends in Faith provided the musical entertainment.
Many members of the local chapter of the NAACP participated in the program, which began at 4 p.m. They included Bishop Charles M. Tilghman Sr., president, and Emerson Cotton, vice president. Alma White presented the service award recipients.
In his closing remarks, Tilghman thanked various invited guests — Sheriff John Price, circuit court Judge Harris Murphy, the Rev. Henry Sabetti of Shrewbury Parish, Wayne Benjamin of the Chestertown Lions Club and Warden Herbert Dennis — for “working together to make a difference, to bring equality and justice to make our communities better.”
The banquet theme was “Celebrating our past, thriving in our present and investing in our future.”
“If we want to thrive in our future, we have to come together,” Tilghman said.
He appealed to the audience members, black and white, to join the NAACP as an organization of change.
“Stop complaining. Get up and do something,” Tilghman said.
While acknowledging that public schools and law enforcement need to do a better job of equally serving all demographics, Tilghman said “we need to look at ourselves.”
He said banding together against injustice and meeting hate with love and forgiveness were the best ways to make positive change.
“To law enforcement and every organization here tonight, we are here to work with you to make a difference. We are just a phone call away,” Tilghman said.”
The event concluded with audience members holding hands and singing “We Shall Overcome.”
The Rev. Joan Brooks, keynote speaker for the NAACP’s annual Freedom Fund Scholarship Banquet in Kent County, urges the audience to stand up against injustice.
From left, Dana Bowser, Zita Seals, Tamika Lewis and Tory Brown perform as Friends in Faith.
Cameron Butler, a freshman at Morgan State University, received a $500 scholarship from the Kent County branch of the NAACP. At left is Bishop Charles M. Tilghman Sr., branch president.