Local NAACP chapter honors leaders, calls for unity

MILFORD — Rev. Dr. Jeanel D. Starling had a message to get across during the 30th annual NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet hosted by the Milford-Slaughter Neck branch of the organization.

“No matter the circumstances: You matter; we matter; I matter,” she said proudly to the crowd that filled the Milford Senior Center’s banquet hall Friday, Sept. 30.

The former principal from within the Milford School District and recently retired United Methodist Church pastor was chosen to speak during the event because of her active involvement with the local NAACP chapter.

She also happens to be one of the founding members of the Milford-Slaughter Neck branch of the NAACP.

“It is vitally important to understand that we are here to stay,” she said during her speech. “It’s been a horrific time all around. God knows it’s been a tough month.”

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Rev. Dr. Jeanel D. Starling spoke to the crowd at the 30th annual NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet hosted by the Milford-Slaughter Neck branch of the organization Sept. 30. The event, held at the Milford Senior Center, honored several local leaders. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

As the speaker, Dr. Starling said she had the privilege of choosing her own topic for the evening, but the choice wasn’t easy.

She opened up to the group about her thoughts and feelings regarding what she called “another death storm.”

Other topics of interest and length included floods, terrorist problems and other modern day horrors currently plaguing the world.

“It has taken me a full month to write what I’m sharing with you tonight,” she said.

She finally settled on hope and what may come in the future.

“My friends, this is a time for hope,” the speaker said.

“We need each other to survive. It doesn’t matter about the color of my skin. I’m here this evening to tell all of us to wake up. We’ve got work to do for justice, equality…. Because we matter. We must seek justice in all venues of our lives. All of us need to come out of our comatose state of mind. The fight for freedom and justice isn’t over.”

She also encouraged the crowd to be “proactive rather than reactive.” Voting in the upcoming November elections will also be key, she added.

“Exercise your right to vote. Don’t ever let anyone think you’re not interested in voting. We must do better to honor [our ancestors],” she urged.

Her speech came after crowd favorites were performed by Joyful Expressions, an all-female vocal group based out of Friendship United Methodist Church, dinner catered by the Milford Senior Center’s catering staff and recognitions of this year’s awardees.

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Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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