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NAACP leaders call for ‘action’

The message shared Sunday by the leaders of the Nansemond-Suffolk branch of the NAACP at their annual Freedom Fund Banquet was one of a call to action.

“Silence will no longer be associated with this branch. Action will be what is associated with this branch,” President Charles Gates told more than 300 members and supporters Sunday evening at the Tabernacle Christian Church’s Shepherd Center.

As president of the branch, Gates, who is a former Marine, challenged the members in attendance to get more involved than “just showing up once a year for dinner.”

“We are going to get things done. We are going to be active. And, we want to do it with you,” Gates told the audience. “We like seeing you here tonight, but we want to see you more out in the community helping effect the changes we need.”

Gates, along with area businessman Louis Kelly, said the biggest challenges for the African-American community — and the Suffolk community in general — are the dangers area youth are facing and the needed development to make them solid citizens in the future.

“Education of our children begins at home,” Kelly said during his speech. But even Kelly added the idea of a “home” is sometimes a challenge in today’s environment.

“How can we teach something that some of us do not know,” he said. “How can we show them [the youth] something that they do not have?”

As for Gates, he praised the efforts of local youth advocacy groups — including the local branch of the NAACP — that have begun efforts to better coordinate their efforts.

“We have already started the process of working together to help our youth,” Gates said. “But it can no longer be just 30 or 40 of us doing the work. We need more of you to help.

But, do not think for a minute that we will not be successful. We are going to be successful, with or without your help.”