Marking 50 years since the Rev. Martin Luther King told the nation “I have a dream,” the Johnstown branch of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is looking forward to “Advancing the Dream.”
That was the theme for Saturday’s Freedom Fund Banquet at the Holiday Inn in downtown Johnstown, marking the local branch’s 97 years of affiliation with the national organization.
“This banquet reports on what we have done for the year,” branch President Alan Cashaw said. “We are welcoming
50 years of advancing the dream.
“We hold up the civil rights for all people,” he continued. “If one person’s civil rights are trampled upon, all our civil rights are trampled upon.”
Keynote speaker Charvonne Holliday called on those attending to take active roles in advancing King’s dream.
A Johnstown native and 2004 graduate of Greater Johnstown High School, Holliday is coordinator of international projects at Windber Research Institute, Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. She is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health.
Public health scientists have developed different models to explain social relationships, she told the audience.
One model looks at interaction between individual, social community and political factors. Researchers use the model to show links between poverty, education and success, including links with expectations and social norms, Holliday said.
“The easy way out is for us to take the top-down approach, blaming occurrences at the policy level for matters we have some control over,” she said.
“This evening, I propose a bottom-up approach: Examining ourselves first, and our impact on the lives of those around us.”
She challenged her audience to take responsibility for their community by taking action to raise expectations and be accountable.
“We now have to reconstitute the vehicle of social change and become agents of justice by speaking out about the inequalities that occur not only in our great nation, but in our own backyards,” Holliday said.
“Instead of waiting on the slow-moving, top-down change, let’s refine the expectations that we set for our community, irrespective of what others may set for us. Together let us raise the bar.”
She encouraged successful community members to mentor young people, citing studies that show mentorship can reduce drug and alcohol abuse and improve academic performance.
Service is also a component of change, Holliday continued.
“Think about how much you have to offer the world,” she said. “In advancing the dream, we must be mindful of how we spend our time and use this gift of time as a means to influence the lives of others, particularly our young people who will carry the torch of our respective visions.”
Randy Griffith is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/photogriffer57.