Cutline: Rev. Franklin Gans leads the singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at the NAACP Annual Scholarship Banquet at Mount Olive Baptist Church Saturday, March 18.

By Dave Rogers

For The Record

Unity is the key for African-Americans in achieving equality and justice, Paul Jones told a group of about 250 at last Saturday’s NAACP Scholarship Banquet.

Jones the incoming president of the Beaumont branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was keynote speaker for the banquet held at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Orange.

The evening was dedicated to James A. Roberts, past president of the Orange branch.

Dr. Jackie Mayfield was master of ceremony. Past scholarship winner Tiffany Hinson read a poem and West Orange-Stark senior Wyndie Williams performed a piano solo.

Rev. Demetrius Moffett is the Orange Chapter president and Carolyn Mayfield is vice president. Rev. Franklin Gans is past-president.

“We need to train ourselves in unity,” Jones said told the assembled. “Orange is a shrinking city. The population is down to 18,000 and there are 6,500 black people.

“But if you unite, that’s enough. Twenty-five hundred votes will elect anybody in Orange.”

The theme of the banquet was “Knowledge is Power” and Jones didn’t forget education.

He delivered a history, both his own rise through the ranks at Gulf States Utilities and the appreciation of historic African-American achievement that he said fueled his personal development.

“We need to have knowledge of our history. We have a very, very rich history. My hero is Dred Scott,” Jones said, referring to the slave who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom before the Supreme Court nearly two centuries ago.

He also spotlighted the 14th Amendment, which passed in 1868 and forbids states from denying any person “life, liberty or property, without due process of law”; and Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1898 Supreme Court decision that upheld “separate but equal” segregation until 1954.

A united African-American community is Jones’ preference.

“We have to teach our kids about unity,” he said.

“This fight for equality and justice is not a destination; it’s a journey.”

Jones was one of several speakers Saturday to advocate for increased NAACP membership.

“The NAACP is still the biggest civil rights organization and we need to start acting like it,” he said. “We’ve gotten too quiet.

“We’ve got to make some noise.”