The NAACP St. Louis County Branch recently hosted the highly anticipated 86th Annual Freedom Fund Dinner in commemoration of Juneteenth. The event took place on Monday, June 19th, 2023, at the prestigious Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel, attracting a diverse and enthusiastic audience. This year’s dinner was particularly special, featuring renowned keynote speaker Dr. Benjamin Ola. Akande, a distinguished figure in the field of finance and a champion of diversity, inclusion, and environmental sustainability. Dr. Akande, currently serving as the Stifel Financial Corporation Global Human Resource Enterprise Senior Vice President, held the audience captive with his powerful address.
His presence at the event underscored the importance of promoting equality, both within corporate structures and in society as a whole. The evening was also dedicated to honoring seven exceptional leaders who have made a remarkable impact on the community. Their dedication and commitment to positive change were acknowledged and celebrated during the dinner. In addition, a special posthumous award was presented to the late-Demetrious Johnson, a philanthropist and humanitarian who dedicated his life to uplifting others in St. Louis. The significance of the event extended beyond recognition and celebration. All net proceeds raised during the Freedom Fund Leadership campaign and dinner directly supported the local programs of the St. Louis County NAACP. These programs encompassed various essential areas, including adult and financial literacy, voter and civic engagement, environmental justice, economic equity, diverse hiring and procurement, and education. By investing in these initiatives, the community is actively fostering empowerment and positive change.
The event also shed light on the persistent issue of racial profiling and discrimination within law enforcement. Statistics from the Attorney General’s office were presented, revealing that black motorists continue to be disproportionately targeted for traffic violations and subjected to vehicle searches compared to their white counterparts. These unjust practices were brought to the forefront, emphasizing the ongoing fight for racial justice and equality. The 86th Annual Freedom Fund Dinner was undoubtedly a resounding success, uniting individuals from all walks of life in their commitment to social progress. The NAACP St. Louis County Branch, along with its partners and supporters, demonstrated their unwavering dedication to fostering a more inclusive and equitable society. Through their collective efforts, they are actively working towards dismantling systemic barriers and creating a future where justice and equality prevail.