NAACP to Host Virtual Freedom Fund Awards
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The NAACP's Berkshire County Branch will be hosting its annual Freedom Fund Awards event virtually on Saturday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m.
The yearly event raises funds to provide stipends to students of color in Berkshire County who are planning on attending college or trade school the following year. Last year, ten students received stipends in the amounts of $500 or $1,000, amounts dependent on if they were going to school locally or farther away.
This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affecting Black communities and communities of color, the local branch has set a goal of $25,000 with the hope of increased stipends of up to $1,500 per student, benefitting up to twenty Berkshire county students.
"We have so many incredibly smart and talented students here in the Berkshires, and so often, they just need a little bit more to ensure that they are secure and prepared when they begin college next year. These stipends can help them with books, gas, tuition, or technology – really whatever they need to succeed," said branch President Dennis Powell.
During this annual ceremony, the local branch of the NAACP will be presenting three community leaders with awards. Rachel Fletcher will receive the W.E.B. Du Bois Freedom Award, Sandra Burton will receive the Baba Chuck Davis Freedom Award, and Lori Murphy will receive the Margaret Hart Freedom Award.
This year's keynote speaker is award-winning author, columnist, and public speaker Deesha Philyaw. Philyaw's debut short story collection, "The Secret Lives of Church Ladies," was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. The collection focuses on Black women, sex, and the Black church. Her work has been listed as "Notable" in The Best American Essays series, and her writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney's, The Rumpus, Brevity, Dead Housekeeping, Apogee Journal, Catapult, Harvard Review, ESPN's The Undefeated, The Baltimore Review, TueNight, Ebony and Bitch magazines, and various anthologies. She is a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and a past Pushcart Prize nominee for essay writing in Full Grown People.
The event is free and open to the public via Zoom but rolling registration is limited, and donations to support the student stipends are encouraged. The program will also be live-streamed on Pittsfield Community Television (PCTV), PCTV Select, and the NAACP Berkshire County Branch, and PCTV Facebook pages.