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Freedom Fund Banquet
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A sold out crowd attended the 23rd Annual Freedom Fund Banquet. - photo by Bryan Fazio

The Rockdale branch of the NAACP gathered at the Georgia International Horse Park to celebrate its 23rd Annual Freedom fund Banquet on Saturday night.

A sold out crowd listened and participated with the theme, "Education is the Key to Succeed in Lie" from several speakers, including Keynote Speaker Pastor Eric W. Lee of Springfield Baptist Church.

"It was sold out. I'm glad that being on the program didn't preclude it from selling out," Lee said.

Lee spoke to the crowd about the "Bystander Effect" and how people shouldn't sit by but rather do something.

He listed the seven D's of destruction effecting people, in particular black people: Divorce, Disease, Dropouts, Detention, Drugs, Debt and Death before a full life. Lee spoke about how people should take personal responsibility, quoting Thurgood Marshall and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"There's no public policy to fix the D's," Lee said. "We need personal responsibilities with holding the powers that be responsible.

"The question is no longer what are they going to do about it, but what am I going to do about it."

After Lee motivated the crowd, Gary King presented the Gene Williams Community Service Award to Iris Henderson Vance.

Vance spent 32 years as a teacher in Rockdale County, including teaching first grade at Pine Street Elementary in 1967-68. That was the first year that the school integrated, and Vance was chosen as one of two black teachers to come to the previously segregated school.

After retiring, Vance is now a member of several boards and community organization.

"A good teacher is like a candle," Vance said in her speech. "It consumes itself to light the way for others."