Gulfport Branch NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet is Dec. 15

Sun HeraldThe Gulfport Branch NAACP will hold its Freedom Fund Banquet from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Hard Rock resort and Casino, 777 Beach Blvd., Biloxi.

During the banquet, the organization will honor former Mississippi Supreme Court Judge Fred L. Banks Jr., one of the state’s leading civil rights trailblazers, with the Medgar Evers Lifetime Achievement Award.

This year’s Freedom Fund theme is Even After 50 Years: “We Shall Not Be Moved,” an amended carryover from the 2013 Annual National NAACP Convention. Guest speaker for the event is Phyliss James of MGM Casino and Resorts.

Fred L. Banks Jr.

Banks has served the NAACP for many years. He was elected president of the Jackson Branch NAACP in 1970 and served from 1971 through 1982. He was a member of the Mississippi State Conference Executive Committee and served as its general counsel and legal redress committee chair from 1976 until he became a judge in 1985. In 1981, he was first elected to the NAACP National Board of Directors and has served on the board continuously since that time. Banks was the founding chair of the Internal Audit Committee and served in that capacity during the transition period from mid-1994 until 1998. He currently serves as chair of the Legal Committee, and as a member of the Executive Committee, Budget Committee and Audit Committee.

Phyliss James

James is executive vice president, special counsel for litigation and chief diversity officer for MGM Resorts International. Prior to joining MGM Resorts, James served with Mayor Dennis W. Archer as corporation (general) counsel and law director of a department of about 100 lawyers for the city of Detroit, the nation’s 10th largest city, from February 1994 through December 2001. James graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in American history and literature in 1974 from Harvard/Radcliffe College after having received the honors of Phi Beta Kappa junior year, the Capt. Jonathan Fay Prize and the Isobelle T. Briggs Fellowship for Graduate Study. She earned her juris doctorate from Harvard Law School in 1977.

Steven Palazzo

U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, fourth district, will present special greetings. Palazzo serves on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology; Subcommittee on Readiness; Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces; House Committee on Homeland Security; Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security; and Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications.

Reilly Morse

Reilly Morse will be presented the Gulfport Branch NAACP Community and Legal Services Award. Morse is president/CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice. Since joining the Center in 2005, he led disaster recovery campaigns to improve low-income homeowner grants, increase affordable rental choice, and most recently to repair homes of thousands of households in nine counties through a $172 million settlement agreement with HUD and Gov. Barbour.

His current work for the Port Campaign Coalition seeks greater jobs and environmental performance from the State Port at Gulfport. He co-founded the Steps Coalition and has served on several nonprofit boards. Before Hurricane Katrina, he had an active public interest environmental practice working with 12 Miles South Coalition, the Sierra Club and coastal environmental groups.

The banquet will culminate the Gulfport NAACP Branch’s year-long observation of the 50th-year commemoration of historic milestones of the civil rights movement including the death of Medgar Evers, the historic March on Washington, the Southern Freedom Movement and the Aug. 18, 1963, graduation of James Meredith from Ole Miss.

Tickets are $40 and may be purchased at Fashion Touch Boutique 896-9222 or Taylor-Harris Drugs 868-1036.