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NAACP Gwinnett to honor activists at banquet

LILBURN - More than 40 years ago at the peak of the civil rights movement, the NAACP worked to insure equal rights for blacks.

Today, the mission of the NAACP's Gwinnett chapter is "To make a positive difference in our community."

Volunteers give countless hours promoting positive growth for all members of Gwinnett's diverse population. The NAACP Gwinnett chapter will celebrate and honor those people Friday at its second annual Freedom Fund and Image Awards banquet.

This year's theme is "Everyone can make a difference." More than 200 people are expected to honor 10 individuals and organizations for their work to create positive change in Gwinnett. Hank Johnson, 4th Congressional District candidate, will speak to the gathering.

"We asked Mr. Johnson because he is someone who has had some ups and downs, but he never gave up," said the Rev. John Stewart, NAACP president. "Kids need to hear and know that they can overcome obstacles."

Image Awards will be given to:

Lifetime Achievement

- Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Livsey, for their work as long-term residents of the Promised Land community, one of the oldest black neighborhoods in Gwinnett County.

- Perry Scott, executive director of the Gwinnett County Human Relations Commission, for his 16 years working to promote advancement and racial harmony among Gwinnett's diverse population.

Education

- Angela Pringle, former principal at Meadowcreek High School, where more than 50 languages are spoken. She helped MHS make steady progress toward improvement.

Community Service

- Omega Psi Phi fraternity alumni chapter, for organizing community service projects such as voter registration drives and blood drives.

Political Action

- Sen. Curt Thompson.

"He has the most diverse community in Gwinnett," said Stewart. "The Norcross area could easily fall victim to blight as neighborhoods change, but he has encouraged businesses to stay and reinvest in the area. He has great vision and a willingness to include everyone."

Economic empowerment

- Business owner John Marsh.

"He is a great role model for other minority businesses on how to mainstream products and services to a wider audience," Stewart said.

Religious Affairs

- The Rev. Mark Abernathy of New Life Assembly in Centerville and the Rev. Jesse Curney III, founder of New Mercies Christian Church in Lilburn.

"Pastor Abernathy is white but his congregation is 60 percent black," said Stewart. "He reaches out to the community, works hard in the Shiloh School cluster and only sees souls that need nourishing."

Youth

- Nina Gilbert, founder of Turning Points, for her work to keep at-risk students in school.

- Karen Young, founder of Hope of Tomorrow, for her efforts to teach leadership and life skills to teenagers.

The Freedom Fund and Image Awards banquet is a major annual fundraiser that supports the NAACP Gwinnett's programs throughout the year, such as the Back to School, Stay in School program, which provides tutoring for students; the spring break college tour, which takes high school students on a weeklong tour of Southeastern colleges and universities and exposes them to the application process; Red Cross blood drives and continued activism for human rights.

The Gwinnett branch of the NAACP was active from the late 1980s until 1999. The chapter was reactivated in 2004 and has about 200 members. The banquet is open to the public and non-members. Volunteers are always welcome in all

programs.

"Everyone has something to contribute," said Audrey Scott, second vice president and banquet coordinator. "Whatever small thing you can do is appreciated, even just a little help per week or month. We want our children and families to grow in the same community together and address things in a mature and Godly way."