The role of youth and the importance of elders were both spotlighted yesterday in Manchester at the Manchester NAACP’s Freedom Fund dinner. The local branch of the nation’s pre-eminent civil rights organization honored five community leaders and also heard comments from Azekah Jennings of the US Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service.
Those honored were:
Joni Esperian, who heads the NH Commission for Human Rights, a state agency charged with promoting and enforcing state law dealing with discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation. In brief comments she noted her own mother’s role challenging segregation in Alabama.
Ernesto Pinder, whose “youthful enthusiasm led to us being here today,” said Woullard Lett, recalling Ernesto’s role in rejuvenating the Manchester NAACP several years ago. Ernesto, who said he has recently turned 40, called on young people to get involved and also called on the NAACP to give attention to racial disparities in the delivery of mental health services.
Linda Gathright, longtime leader of Southern NH Outreach for Black Unity and a recently elected State Representative from Nashua. “She’s a great woman who does not give up,” said Linda’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Bertha Perkins. Pastor Perkins also noted Linda’s role as a communicator and a go-to person for the Nashua community.
Sandra Sepulveda, owner of Don Quixote Restaurant in Manchester, an establishment that has become a hub for community, not just a dining place. “How lucky we are she came to Manchester,” said Lillye Ramos-Spooner.
Selina Taylor, a community organizer with the NH Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, who was described by Jacqui Davis as “a young woman who exemplifies commitment to justice in our community.” Like Joni, Selina called her own mother as a role model, noting that “leaders are raised.”
“You can make a difference no matter how old or young you are,” Selina said.
Azekah Jennings described his own path from federal prosecutor to the Community Relations Service, where he feels he can make a contribution at the “front end” of the criminal justice system. CRS helps governments and communities deal with racial conflict as well as bullying and violence related to other matters, including anti-gay sentiment.
The program was emceed by Joanne Dowdell, who was introduced by Bill Davis, currently the president of the Manchester chapter. William Cavanaugh provided music as people gathered. The Rev. Alan McKillop delivered an invocation. The program concluded with a singing of “We Shall Overcome” and closing remarks from Claudette Williams.