Cobo Hall came alive Sunday evening as thousands of guests poured in to attend the Detroit Branch NAACP’s 57th Annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner. The organization was celebrating its 100th anniversary.
The keynote speaker was Attorney General Eric Holder.
“It’s a great day. We believe that we’ve done a great deal over the past 100 years but we cannot grow complacent. The fight is far from over,” said Rev. Wendell Anthony, Detroit Branch NAACP president, also noting that democracy was the focus of the night.
“Democracy is under attack in Michigan and all over the country,” he said. “The NAACP is not in the back-bending business. We will never forget that Rosa Parks sat down so that we could all stand up.”
The annual event is the largest sit-down dinner in the world, drawing thousands of local and national leaders united in the fight for human rights.
During his keynote address, Holder reminded attendees that the fight for equality rages on.
“Without the NAACP, I would not be here,” said. “In 2012, the struggle has not ended. The reality is, certain aspects of the Trayvon Martin case are far from unique. This is unacceptable.”
The Detroit Branch NAACP honored leaders on both the local and national level for their tireless work for the cuase of social justic.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow received the annual Freedom and Justice Award for her coverage of social issues on “The Rachel Maddow Show.”
“Michigan is a laboratory for those who believe we do not solve problems with the democratic process,” she said, referring to the emergency manager law instated last year. “The biggest story on voting rights is in Michigan.”
WDIV TV4 news anchor Rhonda Walker was recognized for her service to teen girls through the Rhonda Walker Foundation. She reminded the audience that the NAACP is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago, despite changing times.
“The NAACP has always been a very strong voice for us,” she said, adding that it is “ever present”
in the ongoing struggle for full equality. “The NAACP’s leadership in Detroit is strong and has vital relationships with those in leadership across the country.”
The theme of the evening was both celebratory as inspiring. With praise for the work already done, there was a loud call to action by many leaders.
Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI) called for a total reform of the U.S. legal system in the face of the mass incarceration of African Americans, particularly males. “The state of our people is not well,” he said. “We need to start a nonviolent revolution and change the legal system in our country.”
The outpouring of support from business, including major corporations, confirmed that the allies in the fright for freedom come from all sectors of the population.
Mark Reuss, president of General Motors North America, called the event “overwhelming” and said GM will continue to support people and communities through secure jobs and equal economic opportunities.
“The diversity of our workforce is the core of who we are,” Reuss said. “Moving forward, we are not recruiting from the same pools.”
President Barack Obama addressed the dinner guests via a recorded message, labeling the Detroit Branch NAACP a “beacon” for freedom and justice.
“The climb is steep, but Detroit can lead the way,” the president said.