This past Saturday, at 9 a.m., over 50 community members gathered at the Lincoln Center to celebrate 75 years of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP.
The event, called the "Freedom Journey," saw participants walk and bike to historic black landmarks in Chapel Hill.
At each stop, organizers and community members shared the historical importance as well as their personal connection to the site.
“What a history, what an amazing community,”Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP treasurer Deborah Stroman said.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP was founded on October 23, 1947, when a group of townspeople noticed issues around the country and the work the national organization was doing. They worked to combat instances of lynching, discrimination and segregation, formed the branch to advocate for black people in the area.
The organization has advanced its mission to achieve equity, political rights, and social inclusion since its start.
Stroman said the area has glaring disparities, especially with the achievement gap between white students and students of color in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
“When you have disparities, you have to have people that will advocate and try to work to make things better,” Stroman said.
The Freedom Journey event began at the Lincoln Center. Participants visited the Cheek/Clark building, the African American Trailblazers Mural, First Baptist Church, the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, and Freedom Fighters Gateway before finishing at Hargraves Community Center.
Stroman, who was a co-chair for the event, said it was designed to create awareness and respect for the journey of the local branch. She wanted to encourage exercise while highlighting the history and events that have taken place along the route.
“This town was built around the university and it was black bodies, labor, and energy that built the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Town of Chapel Hill,” Danita Mason-Hogans, an attendee of the event, said.
She said it is important that organizations concerned about justice and equity band together and play a part in bettering the community.
“The story of our existence here in Chapel Hill is rooted in struggle because where there is always great oppression, there is always great resistance,” Mason-Hogans said.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro branch of the NAACP advocates for education equity, labor and economic disparities, voting rights, housing opportunity, health care, and environmental and criminal justice.
Betty Curry, an attendee of the Freedom Journey and member of Carrboro’s Affordable Housing Advisory Commission, said she is a member of the NAACP to continue the legacy of her ancestors and achieve justice for her descendants.
“It’s important because we shouldn’t give up on those that fought before us,” Curry said.
George Barrett, executive director of the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, said the event is a great example of the mobilization of the community’s history as a way to make change and as a way to continue working to preserve the future.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP will hold a 75th anniversary gala on Oct. 22 to honor the contributions of the branch since 1947.
They will also celebrate Founding Day on Oct. 23 at the Hargraves Community Center, where the branch's first meeting was held.
“I’m so proud that the NAACP has been here for 75 years to fight for justice,” Mason-Hogans said.
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