WAPPINGERS FALLS - Vote. Vote. Vote. That was the resounding messages that filled Villa Borghese on Saturday afternoon.
With the voting season upon us, the message delivered by Keynote Speaker, Andrea Stewart-Cousins at the 47th Annual Southern Dutchess NAACP Freedom Fund Luncheon caught the attention of the 50 attendees. Democratic Conference Leader Stewart-Cousins, who represents Westchester County in the New York State Senate, made the trip to the Wappingers Falls Banquet Hall, spreading the word of the precious right to vote. Discussing the Voting Rights Act, recent changes in voting, as well as the responsibility of all people to cast their votes at local, state and federal elections, Stewart- Cousins further discussed the ongoing integral role of all NAACP chapters in the political realm.
Saturday’s annual event took on even greater significance, as it commemorated four critical events in our nation’s history. The year 2013 marks not only the 150 Year Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, but it is further the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Medgar Evers, a former NAACP Field Secretary in Birmingham, Alabama. This year also marks the 50th Year Anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination as well as the March in Washington. With so much deep, historical symbolism, this years’ Luncheon Committee wanted to recognize someone truly special as the honoree. They chose Reverend Dr. Tony Hart, a retired Black Studies Professor at SUNY New Paltz and Marist Colleges. Selected for his passion for history as well as commitment to equality for all people, Hart was touched by the recognition, presented to him by Senator Terry Gipson of the 41st District
"It’s a wonderful, humbling experience to be recognized by the oldest civil rights organization in the history of this country; this organization means we have interracial solidarity for all in society, and it is achieved non-violently," said Hart, who is also retired from the prison corrections system, where he worked for Green Haven, Downstate and Beacon Correctional Facility. "We have many challenges and problems today, such as racial profiling, poverty, inequalities, and violence, but I’m going to continue to work toward improving each of them."
Several local politicians were on hand to support the NAACP’s continued focus on ensuring equality in all facets of life. April Farley is vying for a County Legislator spot in the 18th District. Farley, whose priorities include; jobs, county jail issues, and the environment, is continuing the proud political tradition of her grandfather, the late Reverend Garfield Farley, who served 40 years at the Star of Bethlehem Church in Beacon.
"Today is a great opportunity to continue the legacy of my grandfather of serving the community," said Farley, a long-time NAACP member.
Another political figure, Senator Terry Gipson, representing the 41st District, was delighted to be in attendance.
"I want to support the African-American and Latino communities, making sure we have equality and fair representation at all levels of government," said Gipson. "It’s groups like the NAACP that really help us advance such important concerns as equality in education as well as other crucial places."
The Southern Dutchess NAACP chapter was very grateful for Saturday’s turnout and the support it has received for the event, as well as year-round.
"We are so glad that so many people see the importance of having a NAACP Branch in our area," said Tracy Givens, Secretary of the Southern Dutchess NAACP. "We want to thank Reverend Hart as well as Senator Stewart-Cousins, as well as countless others for making today possible."