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FREEDOM FUND

Activists, leaders celebrated by Bloomington-Normal NAACP

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Eric Ellis, CEO of the Integrity Development Corp. of Cincinnati, addresses the Bloomington-Normal branch of the NAACP Saturday during its Freedom Fund event.

BLOOMINGTON — Several community activists were honored Saturday evening at the Bloomington-Normal NAACP branch’s Freedom Fund event.

Held virtually on Zoom, the ceremony’s theme was “Always Fighting Forward,” which branch First Vice President Carla Campbell-Jackson said was initiated by their national office.

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“Fighting forward means remaining steadfast and unmovable against all elements of racism and discrimination,” she said. “The NAACP recognizes that racism impacts us from the corporate board room to the courtroom to the hospital room.”

Campbell-Jackson added racism remains a factor in the lives of African-Americans, “and as such, we must continue to dismantle the issues that continue to create barriers for African-Americans and other minorities.”

Branch president Linda Foster said at the start of the event that her "heart is heavy tonight," as the body found in Peru earlier this month was confirmed to be missing Illinois State University graduate student Jelani Day.

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"Let me just give my condolences from the NAACP to the Day family," Foster said," to let them know we're here, and we support them, and whatever they may need, please know that we are here."

Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe also extended his condolences to the Day family.

"It is no secret we are living in challenging times," the mayor continued, adding that despite all the challenges, the Bloomington-Normal NAACP continues to move forward as a partner with the city.

"These kinds of partnerships make me incredibly hopeful for our future together as a community," he said.

Keynote speaker Eric Ellis, CEO of Integrity Development Corp. of Cincinnati, said he knows how every day can feel like they're caught up in a fight.

"You see, we're not fighting each other. Oftentimes we're fighting spiritual wickedness in high places," he said.

He called on people to find vision to help us keep fighting forward.

Bloomington-Normal NAACP names Freedom Fund winners

Award winners who were celebrated at the event included:

• Arlene Hosea — 2021 Women of the NAACP Woman of the Year Award

• Charles Gregory Halbert — Roy Wilkins Award

• Brigitte Black — Merlin Kennedy Community Service Award

• Jade Carthans — Harry Hightower Youth Community Service Award

Campbell-Jackson said the honorees are all people of excellence who are determined to be aligned with the NAACP’s mission of eliminating racism and discrimination.

“They are not only community leaders but they are advocates for justice and equality,” she said.

She also said Carthans — winner of the Harry Hightower Youth Community Service Award — is "equipped to carry on the torch of excellence as related to justice and equality."

"We know you guys are going to do awesome things," said Foster.

Dan Steadman with the Bike Co-op at the West Bloomington Revitalization Project explains why he gives volunteer bike repair lessons at the Light the Night bike light giveaway event in Normal. READ MORE HERE.

Contact Brendan Denison at (309) 820-3238. Follow Brendan Denison on Twitter: @BrendanDenison

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