Rodney Jones, Manatee NAACP President and Tracy Martin, father of slain teen Trayvon Martin. PHOTO BY FLIPSQUARD PHOTOGRAPHY

The Manatee County’s Chapter of the NAACP held its annual Freedom Fund & Awards Banquet, October 14, 2016 at the IMG Academy Golf & Banquet Center at 4350 El Conquistador Pkwy in Bradenton. The annual event drew more than 300 people in attendance. The featured speaker for the event was the father of slain Trayvon Martin, Tracy Martin. Martin rose to speak , his voice was soft in tone and strong in conviction of seeking equality and justice and without a hint of anger but instead his voice was filled with obvious and deliberate dedication for truth and concern not only to his son’s memory but to the cause of justice and equality for all the sons and daughters. Martin said, “I’m not here for the photo opportunities and hugging babies; I’m here for business, trying to help us in our country, our nation to insure equality is present and well.” Martin continued, I’m here to keep the torch lit in the kingdom, here on earth for freedom for us all, to see we all succeed as a diverse culture. This year especially in an election year, we need to be present to vote and insure we have leadership that represents all of us.” Martin spoke of W.E.B. Dubois’s dedication to see diversity and equality decades before and the call to be committed to that same cause remains loud and clear and much needed for all to be just as involved and committed to it. Martin said, “On February 26, 2012 the death of my son, Trayvon has galvanized our country, this country, our country where Black Lives Matter and all Lives Matter began because a seventeen year old with a hoodie on his head was shot and killed. It took the voice of his parents saying we won’t let go of this until justice is seen. The Voice of our seed and the Voices of the Voice- less became our voice and mission.” Martin concluded by saying, “All of us in this room are proof that we are diverse and colorful and working together. That’s a part of the fight (for justice and equality for all) being diverse. Diversity and Unified is what will bring equality and bring Dr. King’s dream and what he fought for to life. We’ve come a long way but have a long way to go.” Martin and Trayvon’s mother established a foundation which reaches out to parents who have experienced the loss of a child to violence with a Funeral Assistance

Program, Mentoring and motivational speaking around the country, co-parenting classes, entrepreneurship classes and mental health issues and counseling.

Locally awards were given to Layon F. Robinson II for a Lifetime
Achievement. Robinson a local and esteemed Attorney organized (PAL) Police Athletic League and HOPE Family Services and co-founder of Manatee Children Services. Tyrone Smith was awarded the Business Industry Award. Smith is vice-president of Manatee Harvesting Company, manager of Smitty’s Bail Bonds and President and owner of

Touch of Class Restaurant & Lounge in Bradenton. Pastor Arthur A. Huggins was given the President’s Award. Huggins helped establish the non-profit organization, Midnight Basketball in 2007 and was instrumental in start-up of 100 Men for Change. Huggins was elected president of Manatee Bridge the Gap and has been Vice President of

Manatee County Community Pastors Fellowship and President of the New Manatee Broncos football organization. Mary Jennings was given the Community Service Award for her active and ongoing mission to help family, friends and community. Mr. Theodore Jenkins Jr for 2016 Unsung Hero (posthumously). Jenkins served as NAACP Branch Vice- President, President and last position of treasurer. Jenkins served in the Armed Forces and served his community faithfully and willing. Ms. Angela Willett was awarded the 2016 Unsung Heroine Award for her volunteering and dedication to youth in the community which includes coaching cheerleading, serving youth and families living in the Pride Park area and co- founder of The Manasota Angels of Peace Community Organization.