Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Having Our Say' Honors Things African; Fernandina: NAACP Leader Speaks

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Having Our Say' Honors Things African; Fernandina: NAACP Leader Speaks

Article excerpt

Byline: Glenda S. Jenkins, Nassau Neighbors correspondent

Slowly pulsing drumbeats echoed outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center in Fernandina Beach on Oct. 4.

Inside the center, as the rhythms accelerated and intensified, 9-year-old Desirae Arthur picked up her plastic knife and fork. She began rubbing them together, matching the drums' tempo and adding her impromptu instruments to the festive cadence.

Like young Desirae, other guests who attended "An Evening of African Delight," the annual African banquet sponsored by the Nassau County Branch of the NAACP, also found unique ways to participate.

"Having Our Say," this year's theme, was aimed at letting the audience express themselves about Africa's people, history, art and culture. Those attending conveyed their appreciation by wearing traditional African attire and sharing the languages, stories, food and music of the continent.

"We don't have to go back to Africa," said mistress of ceremonies Maybelle Kirkland Brown, a newspaper columnist. "We're already there."

The crowd of about 100 people cheered as several models took to the aisle wearing modern African fashions. They applauded American Beach activist MaVynee Betsch's rendering of a modern dance dedicated to the Pygmy people. And they sang along with Olorun, an African folk artist group from Jacksonville.

But while guests shared their admiration for cultural gifts from the Motherland, they also reflected on the NAACP's work and civil rights issues closer to home.

"These are interesting times for the NAACP," banquet speaker Isaiah Rumlin said.

Rumlin, president of the Jacksonville Branch of the NAACP, said the nation's oldest civil rights organization is having its say on topics that include the war in Iraq and the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Rumlin said the organization issued an anti-war resolution in January "to emphasize that we fundamentally oppose the war on Iraq."

The NAACP also has filed a federal complaint against the Florida Department of Education concerning the FCATs, Rumlin said.

"The NAACP believes that the FCAT should be stopped until the achievement gap between minorities and white students is eliminated, along with other racial disparities," he said. …

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