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Buttigieg to speak at NAACP annual banquet

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Members of the Greater Indianapolis Branch of the NAACP will be joined by presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg for their 50th Freedom Fund Banquet.

Buttigieg will serve as keynote speaker for the celebration, which will be Oct. 4 at the Indianapolis Marriott downtown. The Freedom Fund Banquet is the organization’s largest annual fundraiser and networking event. 

“The Greater Indianapolis NAACP empowers citizens to become active voices in their community and enact change,” said Chrystal Ratcliffe, branch president. “We look forward to welcoming Mayor Buttigieg as we celebrate this significant milestone in our organization’s history.”

The Indianapolis NAACP continues to be a strong advocate for justice. Last year it was one of several organizations to call for reform of the Indianapolis Police Merit Board’s disciplinary process following the fatal police shooting of Aaron Bailey, an unarmed motorist. 

In recent months the NAACP has led efforts to expand the number of early voting sites, reduce rates of diabetes among African Americans, establish ethnic studies standards for Indiana schools and passage of a strong state hate crimes law.

Cordelia Lewis-Burks, longtime community leader and union organizer, said the Freedom Banquet will provide attendees with an opportunity to commemorate the NAACP’s historic victories in Indianapolis and motivate them to achieve more. 

Lewis-Burks, chair of the event, said the NAACP is addressing the realities of today’s polarized political climate, which has divided many Americans along political, racial and economic lines.

“Those are three issues the NAACP has always been about, along with working together,” she said. “We welcome anyone who feels strongly about activism and civil rights to join us as we look toward the future and continue to fight for change.”

The Greater Indianapolis NAACP always welcomes new members and has several committees that organize around a variety of issues for people of all ages. 

The local branch was formed by school teacher Mary Cable in 1912, one of the first African American teachers to work in the Indianapolis Schools System. It was established a few years after the national organization was founded by a multi-racial coalition of civil rights activists. 

Over the decades the branch has lived up to its goal of fighting for equality and eliminating racial hatred and racial discrimination.  

During the 1920s and 30s, NAACP leaders stood boldly against segregation in public schools, lynching and Ku Klux Klan dominance of Indiana state government. 

At the height of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s, NAACP attorneys led efforts to end racial discrimination and segregation in local housing, state colleges and public accommodations such as parks, theaters, hotels and restaurants.

In 1993, the branch hosted the national NAACP convention. That event made headlines as the organization united under its new president, Benjamin Chavis, and presented the W.E.B. DuBois Medal to future South African President Nelson Mandela. 

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett will be on board as honorary chairman when the national spotlight shines again on the local NAACP during the Freedom Banquet in October. 

He praised the city’s oldest civil rights organization for ensuring greater political, educational, social and economic equality in the city. 

“We cannot truly be an inclusive community until our city’s successes reach every zip code in Indianapolis,” Hogsett said. “Together, we must work tirelessly with community partners including the NAACP, to advance these efforts and increase access to postsecondary education, good paying jobs, and the hope of greater opportunity for all of our neighbors.” 

Buttigieg has been mayor of South Bend since 2012 and served in Afghanistan with the Navy Reserve. He ranks in the top five of most polls of candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Hosting a leading presidential candidate is the latest effort by the Indianapolis NAACP to stand at the forefront of addressing issues of concern to local African Americans and everyone committed to justice. 

Organizers don’t know if Buttigieg will address the controversial police shooting in June that left Eric Logan, a Black South Bend resident, dead and sparked a mass protest. 

Ratcliffe said Buttigieg was invited before the incident and is expected to speak on a variety of topics from “his perspective as the mayor of a growing city” and foreign policy expert.

In a statement, Buttigieg acknowledged that “more than 100 years after the race riots that led to the founding of the NAACP, our progress as a nation continues to take place under the shadow of systemic racism and inequality.” 

In an interview with “The Forward,” Steve Grossman, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Buttigieg would be wise to not rely solely on fundraising and offer sincere outreach to groups that represent minorities such as the NAACP.

“Money guarantees nothing,” Grossman said. “What he needs to do is figure out how to build relationships with voters of color in this country… and he recognizes that.”

Lewis-Burks said although the NAACP is looking forward to Buttigieg’s visit, the organization does not endorse political candidates. 

“This is not for an endorsement, but for the NAACP members and the citizens of Indianapolis to get to know him,” Lewis-Burks said.

NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet

Tickets for the 50th Freedom Fund Banquet are $75, and will include a 5:30 p.m. reception followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. To purchase tickets and for information about sponsorships, visit indynaacp.org or call branch secretary Phyllis Carr at 317-925-5127.


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