Cobb NAACP President Deane Bonner said the organization has registered 5,000 voters in the past year, and that work is now coming to fruition with advance voting lines going around the Cobb Elections Office and Civic Center.
“It is imperative that you vote Nov. 6,” she told the audience at the Hilton Marietta Hotel & Conference Center. “We want people to realize that we have paid a bigger price than others for the privilege of voting. When we do not go to the polls, if it is raining or for whatever reason, we are saying to the ancestors who gave their lives that it doesn’t matter.”
Bonner didn’t mention President Barack Obama’s re-election, or any other specific campaign, in her “charge” speech, and even good-naturedly scolded state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-Austell) for encouraging the 300 attendees to vote “yes” on the charter schools amendment moments earlier.
“She knew that she was not supposed to give that little shout out that she did, because we are supposed to be non-partisan,” Bonner said.
Morgan, who won the Education Award, was one of several honorees on the evening. She credited her mother taking her to an NAACP meeting when she was 14 for getting her interested in politics.
“I believe I was born to be Cobb County’s first African American state representative, and there’s not another soul in this room who was born to be that,” Morgan said. “But you were born to do something, and if you do not believe in it, it will not be done.”
The Rev. Benjamin Lockhart, pastor of Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Marietta, accepted the church’s Community Service Award.
“I pastor one of the greatest churches in the world,” Lockhart said. “They possess one of the greatest preachers in the world and one of the best pastors in the world.”
Other award winners included Dr. Linda Akanbi, former chair of Kennesaw State University’s elementary and early childhood education department, who won the Elder Award; Vela McClam-Mitchell, owner of the nation’s largest black-female owned travel management company, who won the Business Award and Youth Achievement Award winners Marcus Lafleur, a student athlete at Hiram High School, and Rebekah Glover, a fourth grader at Richards Christian Academy who received a loud ovation after breaking into song.
The President’s Award, for contributions within the NAACP branch, went to Francis Cooke, Jeriene Grimes and Cheryl Stephenson.
The event was co-chaired by Mitzi Moore, owner of Sundial Plumbing, and Nelson Geter, executive director of the Development Authority of Cobb County.
“We just want to get the word out on the significance of voting,” Geter said. “Voting is a given right of all citizens, and all citizens should get out and exercise the right to vote.”
Along with the theme, “Your Power, Your Decision –Vote!” attendees got reminders of the importance of showing up at the polls by the decorative ballot boxes placed on each table.
Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood praised the work the NAACP does.
“I think this is a great event and Deane is a constant throughout the community that helps us bring diversity,” he said.
Other officials on hand included state Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell), southwest Cobb Commissioner-elect Lisa Cupid, Cobb District Attorney-elect Vic Reynolds, Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin and Councilmen Anthony Coleman and Philip Goldstein, who along with absent county Chairman Tim Lee, was named an NAACP life member. Several people attended both the NAACP event and the Cobb Republican Women’s Club Veterans Day Brunch in the same ballroom, which started more than 12 hours before the NAACP event ended. They included Cobb Fire Chief Sam Heaton and attorney Nathan Wade.