VALDOSTA -- A civil rights activist and co-founder of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma, Ala., spoke Saturday evening about the continuing efforts of the African-American cause during the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's annual Freedom Fund Banquet.

In a small contradiction with this year's banquet theme, "Forgetting the Past, Focusing on the Future," Joanne Bland said although African-Americans have come a long way during the past 30 years, they shouldn't forget the past. Instead, they should remember it and it to tell their children.

"It's very, very, very important that we remember our history," she said. She went further, suggesting that those who are concerned their children aren't being taught enough black history should join boards to help remedy that.

Bland spoke about her childhood in Selma, Ala., how she she grew up in the civil rights movement, thanks to her grandmother who would frequently take her to meetings. Then she complimented the achievement of African-Americans in the local community.

"I'm glad to see Valdosta has black elected officials," she said, adding that the efforts of ordinary citizens helped to propel them to where they are now.

Also during the banquet, several people were recognized for their efforts. The Valdosta/ Lowndes County Branch of the NAACP president Leigh Touchton awarded presidential awards to the following: Ann Mercer, James Wright, Jessie Clark, Eddie Mae Mitchell and Truiose Nash. She added that in the past few years, the chapter grew tremendously, from about 15 members to about 150.

"In two more years, I'd like to see membership grow from 150 to 1,500," Touchton said.



To contact reporter Marie Arrington, please call 244-3400, ext. 254.



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