Photo by Larry Middleton
Roxie Palmer holds her plaque after winning the Nannie B. Hairston Award at the NAACP 42nd Freedom Fund Banquet. Pictured are: (from left) Dy-Anne Penn, Roxie Palmer, Deborah Travis and N.L. Bishop.

The Montgomery County-Radford City-Floyd County Branch of the NAACP held its 42nd Freedom Fund Banquet on Oct. 7 in Latham Ballroom at the Inn at Virginia Tech.

Three hundred and eighty members and supporters attended. Those gathered opened the evening by singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Youth Council President Zamora White and Radford University Student Branch President Ricardo Graves then lit candles in a memorial tribute.

Musical entertainment was provided by R&B artist JamTight. After the dinner was served, sponsors of the banquet were introduced by Deborah Travis and Allen Palmer, co-chairs of the Freedom Fund Committee.

The Gold Sponsor, at the level of $2500, was the Virginia Tech Office of the President. Silver Sponsors, at the level of $1000, were Carilion New River Valley Medical Center; Food Lion, Inc.; Radford University Office of the President; Virginia Tech Office for Inclusion and Diversity; and Jefferson College of Health Sciences Office of the President. Bronze Sponsors, at the $800 level, were Asbury United Methodist Church; Lewis Gale Montgomery Hospital; Huntington, Huntington & Huntington, PLLC; Moog, Inc.; Alpha Kappa Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; United Auto Workers, Local 2069; and New River Community College. There were 17 Community Sponsors at the $600 level.

The Nannie B. Hairston Community Service Award, for long-time service to the NAACP, went to Roxie Palmer. She has served as assistant secretary, and as chair of the branch’s Membership Committee for over 10 years. She has also worked for many years with its Education Committee and Youth Council empowering young people.

In the community, Palmer is a 32-year charter member of the Christiansburg Ruritan Club, where she has served on the Scholarship Committee raising funds for 20 student scholarships over the last 14 years.

She also volunteered as a mentor at Christiansburg Middle School with F.O.R.T Females On the Right Track. As a long-time member of Asbury UMC, Palmer has served as vice president of United Methodist women. Mrs. Palmer retired from Alliant Tech after 35 years.

She is married to Mr. Allen Palmer, a previous winner of the Hairston Service Award, and is the mother of two and grandmother of two.

Mrs. Hairston, for whom the award is named, passed away in July and is sorely missed. She was represented at the awards ceremony by her daughter Dy-Anne Penn.

The keynote speaker at this year’s banquet was Dr. Menah Pratt-Clarke, Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Vice Provost for Inclusion and Diversity at Virginia Tech. Dr. Pratt-Clarke came to Virginia Tech almost two years ago, from the University of Illinois, bringing over 20 years of academic, administrative and legal experience.

Pratt-Clarke spoke on the topic of “Meeting the Challenges.” By drawing on the story of her mother’s life, she reminded the audience that our challenges are not new. Last year, Pratt-Clarke visited the new Smithsonian Museum of African-American History with a group from Virginia Tech. The exhibits showed her that we have met these challenges before. Reflecting on our history convinced her that we will meet these challenges again. When slaves got to have a garden plot of their own they got up earlier and went to bed later to cultivate it. We must work harder, just as they did. When we make a way out of no way, we have to pick our battles carefully so as not to burn out.

Pratt-Clark ended by describing a plant that is lacking nutrients, but it sends out a tough ornery little leaf anyway. It is by embracing the struggle that we do transformative work.

The branch President, Ms. Rita Irvin gave concluding remarks. She emphasized the work of the branch with the acronym C-A-U-S-E. As community leaders, we will be deliberate in the way we Communicate, Advocate, Unify, Strategize, and Evaluate.

The banquet concluded with the attendees holding hands and singing “We Shall Overcome” to indicate their commitment to continuing work for civil rights and the betterment of all people in the New River Valley.

The branch will hold its celebration of Veterans’ Day on Sunday, Nov.12, at 4 p.m. at Schaeffer Memorial Baptist Church, 580 N. High Street in Christiansburg. The speaker will be Retired Marine Sergeant Lamont Calloway. The colors will be presented by the VT Corps of Cadets. All are welcome.

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