The Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County branch of the NAACP held its 43rd Freedom Fund Banquet on Oct. 13 at the Inn at Virginia Tech. The theme of the banquet was “Defeat Hate: Vote.”

Four-hundred thirty members and supporters attended, along with 37 sponsors. The welcome was given by the Master of Ceremonies, Rev. Marlin Reeves. Greetings were offered by branch President Rita Irvin, Radford University College Chapter member Ricardo Graves, and Virginia Tech College Chapter President Camryn Taylor.

A memorial ceremony for members deceased since the last banquet was led by Rev. Jefferson Jones and Youth Council member Tyler Graves.

Musical entertainment was provided by Current Situation, comprised of Denise Smith and Alan Johnson on vocals, Glen Holmes on keyboards, and Delmar Parker on drums.

Sponsors of the banquet were recognized by banquet co-chairs Deborah Travis and Allen Palmer.

The Gold Sponsor, at the level of $2,500, was the Virginia Tech Office of the President.

Silver Sponsors, at the level of $1,000, were Carilion New River Valley Medical Center; Food Lion Inc.; the Radford University Office of the President; Virginia Tech Office for Inclusion and Diversity; and Jefferson College of Health Sciences Office of the President.

Bronze Sponsors, at the $800 level, were Asbury United Methodist Church; Christiansburg Institute and Alumni Association; Huntington, Huntington & Huntington PLLC; LewisGale Montgomery Hospital; Moog Inc.; Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Church; United Auto Workers, Local 2069; ColorsVA Magazine; Wolverine Advanced Materials; and Member One Federal Credit Union.

There were also 21 Community Sponsors at the $600 level.

Fully-paid Silver Life Membership plaques were presented to Dr. Arthur Buikema, Judy Diggs, Jason Diggs, Irene Peterson and Dr. Jill Stewart.

The Nannie B. Hairston Award, for longtime service to the NAACP and the community, went to Dr. James C. Klagge. The award was presented by DyAnne Penn, daughter of Mrs. Hairston, and recent award recipients Deborah Travis and Roxie Palmer.

Klagge grew up in a suburb of Cleveland, attended the College of William and Mary and UCLA, and eventually moved to Blacksburg in 1985 to take a position at Virginia Tech as Professor of Philosophy. He was elected to represent District F for the Montgomery County School Board in 1995, and served as board chairman from 1998-2000; he was re-elected and served until 2003. Klagge’s involvement in the establishment of the countywide Diversity Committee in 1998 was an important accomplishment. A past recipient of the branch’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award, Klagge has served as chairman of the branch’s Communication Committee for more than 15 years, and is a Silver Life member of the NAACP. He is currently the branch’s 1st Vice President. Along with other activists from the area, Klagge was part of the counter-protest at the alt-right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017, and the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., in March. He credited the late Rev. John Price for making him feel welcomed into the local African-American community.

The keynote speaker was the Honorable Dietra Y. Trent, Ph.D., former Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and current Interim Director of International Education and Special Assistant to the Provost at Radford University. During her service to the Commonwealth, Dr. Trent considers her proudest moment to be establishing and obtaining funding for the Minority Political Leadership Institute, aimed at individuals interested in running for elected office or assuming leadership roles in minority communities. Among her remarks at the banquet, she encouraged people to get out and vote, not only for policies that are good, but for candidates who are good people. She also honored the work of the NAACP as a moral compass for the nation. Political Action Committee Chairwoman Karen Jones presented Dr. Trent with a gift of appreciation from the branch.

The banquet concluded with a benediction by Rev. Pam Phillips, after which the attendees held hands and sang “We Shall Overcome” to indicate their commitment to continuing work for civil rights and the betterment of all people in the New River Valley.

The branch holds its General Body meetings on the fourth Sunday of each month at 3:30 p.m. at the recently renovated Old Hill School Community Center, 570 High St. in Christiansburg. All are welcome.

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Submitted by Terry Goodson

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