Centennial Celebration

NAACP Marion County Branch 5114 marked its 100th anniversary during a Sunday ceremony that recounted historic milestones.

Rev. Reginald Willis Sr., right, leads a processional during the NAACP #5114 Centennial Celebration at the New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church in Ocala, Fla. on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2023.

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Posted December 12, 2023 | By Andy Fillmore/Special To The Ocala Gazette
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

By Andy Fillmore, andy@ocalagazette.com

A 100th anniversary celebration of the organizing of the Marion County Branch 5114 of the NAACP was held Dec. 10 at New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church in Ocala. The centennial celebration also marked 80 years since the branch was chartered by the national NAACP.

Clergy, past chapter presidents and current leaders spoke of the branch’s many accomplishments and challenges over the decades, from civil rights protests in the 1960s and encouraging voting participation to standing up for A.J. Owens, a young mother who was fatally shot by a neighbor in a recent case with racial overtones.

Whitfield Jenkins, 82, president of the local chapter from 1984 to 1989, 1991 to 1992 and 1997to 1998, was recognized by the chapter as “Freedom Fighter of the Century.”

“It’s a humbling experience,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said he continued a chapter project in 1984 from outgoing president Vera McLaughlin Alexander that involved a federal suit against the city of Ocala for allegedly not providing equal services to Black people in West Ocala.

Jenkins indicated that as a result of the suit, the city was directed to provide increased services and infrastructure improvements and said some have been seen. He said facilities like the Mary Sue Rich Community Center at Reed Place are part of that directive.

Jenkins said he looks at his grandchild and to the future, and there is “still work to be done.”

Inspirational choir music was provided by the New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church Choir, directed by Benjamin Bryant.

The event included greetings from Ocala Mayor Ben Marciano and Francine J. Edwards, a district aide for Florida Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson. City of Ocala Councilman Ire Bethea Sr. was also joined the celebration.

A discussion of the history of the branch included discussion of Edward D. Davis, an early branch president, Florida State Conference president and Conference NAACP Branches member, who “led the fight for equal pay for Black teachers in Florida.”

Davis founded the Florida Voters League and has been inducted into the State of Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

Davis’ grandson, Daniel Banks, an elder at Fort King Presbyterian Church, performed a solo rendition of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

Banks said Davis operated a Shell service station and laundromat in the vicinity of New Covenant MBC and mostly developed the business after he was fired by the Marion County School Board for his work on trying to attain equal pay for black educators.

The history discussion included the work of past president in the 1960s, Rev. Frank G. Pinkston, who led members of the Youth Council to hold anti-segregation demonstrations. He was hired by the National NAACP to lead civil rights demonstrations in St. Augustine. A portion of U.S. Highway 27 is named in this honor.

Published articles have described how Pinkston received death threats for his work in the civil rights demonstrations and his home was protected by a group of armed men known as the “Hunting and Fishing Club,” who outwardly were sportsmen but actually had the purpose of protecting the Pinkston residence.

The history also discussed John A. Buggs, a “civil rights fighter” and a principle at Fessenden Academy, who held voter drives at the school.

Alexander served as first female president of the branch and in 1979, as she served, the chapter filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Ocala with the Federal Office of General  Revenue Services “alleging discrimination in providing services to Black citizens” in West Ocala. The effort was later continued by Jenkins.

During the event, Adjenatu Florence with New Covenant MBC and Lizzie Lenon with Mount Moriah MBC spoke about the branch’s history and its future outlook. Lucille Potter and Narvella Haynes gave a membership appeal and Sarah Greene gave presentations and recognitions.

Colin Mitchell, president of the Florida State Conference College and Youth Division, and his sister, Francesca Mitchell, an NAACP national board member, gave an upbeat presentation on the history of the branch. He asked the audience if they would “rise to the occasion” like Edward Davis, while she set the sacrifice of prior members as an example to strive for and aspire of an investment “in the next generation.” He said current issues include concerns about food desert areas and more.

Branch 5114 past presidents on hand and recognized for their contributions, in addition to Whitfield Jenkins, included his wife and also past president Loretta Pompey Jenkins; Rev. Michael Frazier; Rev. James Sykes; Kelvin Richardson; Rev. Reginald Willis Sr.; Rev. Lorenzo S. Edwards; Brendien Mitchell Sr. and Ti’Anna Greene, as well as Bishop James D. Stockton III, the current branch president.

Rev. Jerone Gamble, current chapter vice president, spoke of a compiled “Black History Tool Kit” as being vital to keep Black history alive and available to churches and community groups when school courses do not provide the historical information.

Gamble also discussed the to get Black voters not only registered to vote, but out to the polls to place their votes.

Rev. Stanley Jacobs, pastor of New Covenant MBC, delivered a message to the audience about people color continuing to fight for equality and respect. He said people who talk about slavery being a learning experience should be sent to work on a plantation and then watch them “change their minds.”

“Obviously, the struggle continues,” he said.

Stockton III presented awards and spoke during the event. He said the work of the NAACP covers 21 committees, including civic engagement and education.

Stockton said some would “whitewash” history and overlook the “blood, sweat and tears of people of color in building this nation.”

To learn more, go to FB.com/NAACPofMarionCounty



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