When you’ve stated publicly that “new threats to communities of color” are emerging daily and associated that observation with what you are convinced are attacks on the nation’s democracy, then you go where you need to go and do what you need to do.

That conviction is bringing National NAACP Board Chairman Leon W. Russell to Memphis, where he will keynote the Freedom Fund Luncheon that will be hosted by the Memphis Branch NAACP on Saturday (March 17).

Elected chairman in February 2017, Russell has served as a member of the NAACP National Board of Directors for 27 years. Accepting the position, Russell made a declaration: “I will keep watered the seeds of activism and social justice that the NAACP’s legacy spouts from.”

That means that Russell and his colleagues in the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization stay ever ready relative to applying NAACP influence and reach to the issues of education, health, environmental and climate justice, economic opportunity, media diversity, criminal justice, civic engagement and federal advocacy.

As he moves about, Russell is having conversations about the NAACP’s front-burner emphasis of shifting resources in the direction of efforts to mobilize for the 2018-midterm elections. As part of that strategy, the NAACP recently signed agreements with the NNPA: The Black Press of America; the National Minority Pan Hellenic Council; the African- American Institute, and The LINKS.

That linkage reflected a commitment to take a familiar tool – partnerships – and make use of it at an energy level commensurate with today’s challenges.

“Working with partners remains a critical part of unifying the black community as we prepare to make our voices heard at the polls and on ineffective public policies,” Russell said at he time. “These groups have answered the call to work with us to expand membership and our ability to educate our community on the need for aggressive civic engagement.”

For 35 years, Russell served as director of the Office of Human Rights for Pinellas County Government in  Clearwater, Fla. He was responsible for implementing the county’s Affirmative Action and Human Rights Ordinances. The measures provided for the development of a racially and sexually diverse workforce reflecting the general make-up of the local civilian labor force. He also was a prime mover behind the implementation of the county’s Equal Employment Opportunity Programs.

“We hope our members and those interested in justice for all, will attend the annual luncheon to hear from our National Board Chair Leon Russell about the new direction of the NAACP,” Deidre Malone, president of the NAACP Memphis Branch executive committee. “We also will pay homage to some of our current local civil rights leaders and those that helped pave the way for advancing the movement in Memphis.”

AT A GLANCE

SCS Supt. Dorsey Hopson
Rep. Raumesh A. Akbari
Markova Reed

Co-chairs for the event are Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson and State Rep. Raumesh Akbari. WREG-TV anchorwoman Markova Reed will serve as as mistress of ceremony.

The annual Freedom Fund Luncheon will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hilton Hotel located at 929 Ridge Lake Blvd.

(Tickets are $130. To purchase, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/naacp-memphis-branch-freedom-fund-luncheon-2018-tickets-42395383734. Or, contact Vickie Terry at 901-521-1343; email [email protected])