NAACP luncheon raises the bar for social justice NOW!

NAACP (from left): WSLS TV 10 reporter Irisha Jones; Brenda Hale, president, Roanoke NAACP; Phazon Nash, president NAACP Youth Council; Luncheon speaker Jeff May, Jr. Mayor Sherman Lea stands in background. – Photos by S. Hale

by S. Rotan Hale

The Roanoke Branch NAACP held its 67th Life Membership Freedom Fundraiser Luncheon, Saturday, Dec. 2 at the Holiday Inn, Tanglewood, on Starkey Rd.

WSLS TV 10 reporter Irisha Jones was MC for this annual affair that many look forward to as it showcases the organization’s accomplishments regarding the implementation of justice on various levels and major focus on uplifting the youth.

The local organization continues to thrive under the leadership of president, Brenda Hale who for years has also established and maintained a healthy relationship with city officials–particularly Roanoke’s accesible Mayor Sherman Lea.

“Roanoke is a city that believes we can do all things by working together,” said Mayor Lea during his welcoming remarks.

“We are very much appreciative of our relationship with the NAACP and President Hale who makes a lot of things happen that most people are unaware of.”

Referring to Hale and her on-air partner as the “voice of the community,” the mayor took the opportunity to present “Star City” awards to Bishop Edward Mitchell (SCLC) and Hale for their efforts as “great communicators in the valley.”

The two host a talk show (WTOY-AM 1480-radio) whereby local, state and national issues are discussed and listeners are encouraged to call in.

NAACP Youth Council president Phazon Nash (left) praises his mentor Jeff May (right) as organization president Brenda Hale looks on.

After the acknowledgement of high profile guests and awardees, luncheon speaker Jeff May wasted no time captivating the crowd with an incredibly intense message that empowered the audience at this well-attended event.

May is a skilled communicator and promoter of personsonal growth who stands on his motto “If you want different, do different. You’re the change.”

Throughout his powerful speech, he strategically chiseled away the hard-caked exterior of many issues presently plaguing society–particularly those affecting people of color.

May quoted scripture that at various points transformed his address into a passionate sermon. “We have been commanded to do good,” he chided and used a passage from Isiah 1:17 (NLT). “‘Seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”’

His biblical-based approach fueled his remedies that (if adopted) would certainly lead to a more respectful and balanced existence for all– ultimately lifting the ethical choke-hold that continues to stifle our nation.

May has grown considerably from the award-winning orator and youth specialist he was during his years in Roanoke. His is an impressive resume bulging with a sizable number of student programs, seminars and workshops.

As director of the Westside 21st Century Community Learning Center he established one of the only elementary school debate teams in the state. Under May’s guidance, the team won the 2013 National MAGNA Award which recognizes school districts nationwide that promote advance student learning programs.

May has since relocated to North Carolina where he serves as youth development director, Cumberland County, Fayetteville, NC.

Through such enlightening events and other concerted efforts of the local NAACP, frontline soldiers like Jeff May bring encouraging messages creating vantage points from which remedial efforts to societal ills may and can be instituted.

To his credit NAACP Youth Council president Phazon Nash (a proud Eagle Scout) followed up the luncheon’s incredibly inspiring address with an impromtu endorsement as one of May’s former students.

“Mr. Mays is an awsome man who lives by his word… I’ve witnessed it personally,” said Nash. “I’ve seen him speak on various occasions and I know that what he says and who he presents himself to be up here is who he is.”

There is little doubt as to May’s ability as a dynamic motivator–brilliant and seasoned. With his manifesto of growth though change he played perfectly to this year’s luncheon theme of, “Social Justice: If Not Now, When?