News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 10, 2012

NAACP honors life members of TH branch

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The relevance of a movement was celebrated Friday for those who lived it, as civil rights activists honored their own.

The Greater Terre Haute Branch of the NAACP hosted its annual Freedom Fund banquet Friday evening inside the Holiday Inn. But instead of the traditional guest speaker and program, this year’s event featured a live performance by New York actor Brian Simmons.

Valerie Hart-Craig, president of the branch, was dressed in a gown as she explained the night’s combination of educational program and dinner theater.

“I think it’s a nice change,” she said, noting most events just have a speaker. This year’s program honored life members of the branch, many of whom worked on behalf of the civil rights movement in the middle years of the 20th century.

Simmons, who performs with the Living Voices program, said one of that organization’s dramas is “The Right to Dream,” a dramatic portrayal of the civil rights movement in America’s Deep South. The 25-year-old graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University said he typically performs for students.

“To be honest, this is the most terrified I’ve ever been to do a show,” he admitted prior to the performance. Offering a dramatic presentation about the movement to people who lived it is a challenge. “It’s like teaching astronauts about the stars.”

The piece tells the story of Raymond Hollis, a young African American growing up in Mississippi in the days where Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. were battling racial discrimination. From racial slurs and discriminatory laws to the Ku Klux Klan, the story often leaves school children speechless, he said.

Theressa Bynum, chair of the Freedom Fund and long-time member of the branch, said the history of America’s battle for civil rights is as relevant today as ever. On a drawing board beside the dinner tables, the history of a fight for equality was displayed in a timeline format.

“If you don’t know your history, you’re bound to repeat it,” she said.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or

2012 NAACP Awards Life Membership Achievement recipients are:

• Valarie Bailey

• Dr. Michele Boyer

• Suzanne Carter

• Earle L. Harvey

• Martha Jordan

• Joseph L. Pate

• Yosi Shibberu

• Ann D. Smith

• Floyd Smith

• Jeanette Smith

• Sidney Thomas

• Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology