NAACP honors Tuskegee Airman, speaker warns of efforts to limit voter rights
The Missouri Commission on Human Rights Executive Director Alisa Warren compared the pending voter identification laws to literacy tests of the 1960s.
As she addressed the crowd at the Mar-Saline National Advancement for the Association of Colored People's annual banquet on Saturday, June 23, faded photos of the civil rights movement flashed on the screen behind her. Warren embraced the evening's theme "Your Power, Your Decision -- Vote" as she recalled the plight of the 1960s, the activists killed and the billy clubs, tear gas and bullets used to keep minorities from voting.
Her keynote speech echoed the MCHR mission of preventing social inequality. She noted that MCHR and NAACP's missions coincide because both organizations work to eliminate the myth of a color-blind, racism-free society.
She applauded Governor Jay Nixon for vetoing voter-restriction laws in Missouri and questioned why Americans were building barriers to their civilian rights.
She further explained the fruitlessness of the pending laws and noted voters have a better chance of being struck by lightening than being impersonated at the polls.
"This is a solution in search of a problem," she said.
For Warren, the pending identification requirement illustrated a pointless regression. She said requiring identification at the polls would restrict elderly, minorities, students and the poor from utilizing their citizen right to vote.
The banquet also honored several locals for their achievements in the community. Clyde Williams presented Amy and Eric Crump with a community service award. He praised the couple for their involvement with the Market on the Square and applauded Eric Crump for his work with the Bob James Jazz Festival.
"None of these pay any money, but they're doing these for the betterment of Marshall," Williams said.
Sam Moten honored Charles Ferguson with the Outstanding Educator Award. He listed Ferguson's many accomplishments and thanked him for his involvement in the community.
Ron Monnig introduced Stephen Allegri and presented him with an award for outstanding entrepreneurship. Monnig noted Allegri's efforts to implement locally owned businesses in the community. As mayor of Slater, Allegri has assisted with policies that encourage small business growth. He believes communities would be healthier if small businesses thrived Monday through Saturday and people filled church pews on Sunday.
"I accept this on behalf of all the small businesses in the community because they are the backbone of the community," Allegri said.
The NAACP awarded Guadalupe Martinez with the Josephine Lawrence Humanitarian Award. Presenter Mary Williams cited Martinez's journey to Marshall and her extreme willingness to assist her community. Martinez serves Marshall Public School's Parents as Teachers program and interprets for the Hispanic community. As she accepted her award, she thanked God for the many blessings in her life.
"I am the instrument of him," she said. "I follow his step. I try."
Melvin Smith presented James Shipley with the Trailblazer Award. Shipley served as Tuskegee Airmen crew chief in the 332nd fighter group. As Shipley received his award, he thanked the NAACP for its dedication to the country.