Learning from their examples

Published 8:31 pm Wednesday, February 29, 2012

One of my favorite things about journalism is discovering largely overlooked stories about a community. Working in Suffolk means there are a huge of amount stories waiting to be shared, and discovery of them happens every day. But a recent event brought all those stories together into one fascinating story about many individuals who had a vital role in the community.

I am talking about the Freedom Fund Banquet recently held by the Nansemond-Suffolk branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. During the annual banquet, dozens of current and former black business owners were honored.

Each individual offered a peek into the story of how blacks have shaped and improved Suffolk.

Email newsletter signup

“They are people who have had a very big impact in the community,” NAACP President Lue Ward said of the honorees.

Many of these individuals made a lasting difference in the community. For example, pharmacist James E. ‘Doc’ Richards Sr. gave sick people medicine even when they couldn’t pay for it. George and Nellie Saunders ran one of the few restaurants around that allowed black people inside. The honorees also included former owners of grocery stores, several doctors, owners of automotive garages, barber shop owners.

And the list goes on.

The event, held at the end of Black History Month, is another way to remind us all how integral blacks really are to Suffolk. That’s why the Suffolk News-Herald highlighted our own picks for influential black Suffolkians during the month.

As we enter March, it may seem easy to forget their contributions until next year, but I hope that the lessons of these individuals serve as lasting examples of what we all can do to strengthen the Suffolk community.