Bryant: Use past to build on future

By DEMETRIUS THOMPSON,

A crowd of community members turned out on Saturday evening for the 45th annual NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet at the ECCC cafeteria.

This year’s theme was “Knowledge of the Past with Educational Wisdom Applied to the Future,” and keynote speaker and Newton Municipal School District Superintendent Nola Bryant embodied the theme in her speech that urged unity and perseverance through Christian faith. Bryant said that the Newton community can use the long history of the county’s NAACP chapter to educate future generations.

“You’ve got to take the knowledge from the past to encourage our children in the present, in order to get to the future,” Bryant said during her speech. “They can take advantage of the opportunities that lie beyond what they’re seeing in Newton, Mississippi. They just need to dream. Every day, most of the knowledge that we share with other people is knowledge that we’ve already gained through our experiences, whether it’s’ good or bad.”

Bryant has nearly completed her first year at the helm for NMSD is looking to build on the state accountability grade improvements the district made in the 2016-17 school year, which saw the district improve from a D to a C and Newton High School improve from a D to a B.  

Newton County Chapter NAACP President Richard Coleman said Bryant reached out to the organization shortly after being hired in the spring of 2017 and that he is glad to have a partnership between the chapter and the school district. 

“She had three other offers, and the Newton Municipal School District paid less, but she chose Newton,” Coleman said. “She can’t’ do it alone; she’s going to need us, and the community involved to support her.”

Among the changes that Bryant has implemented this school year were inhouse tutoring for every grade. The district also started a superintendent’s cabinet, which involved Coleman and members of the NAACP chapter.

At the beginning of the program, longtime chapter member Minnie Porter honored around 20 present and late members who have been involved in the county chapter for its full four-and-a-half-decade history. Porter said that those forerunners faced harsh racism in the chapter’s early years after it started the banquet in the early 1970s.

“Let’s think in terms of how bad situations used to be and think in terms of how the good things that are happening in our lives is because of the good Lord working through the NAACP,” Porter said. “We thank God for what he has done and that is why we are honoring the people who have gone before us when it was really terrible. They got locked up, they got ridiculed, they got beaten, they got shot at, but they weren’t afraid.”

Toward the end of the night, Beverly Hart and Randy Patrick presented four Freedom Fund scholarships to area high school seniors, Marcasia Jones of Newton County High School and Zyreaia Tingle, Tyteanna Wragg and Kadrian Robinson all of Newton High School.

Tingle a 4.0 GPA at NHS and was accepted to Mississippi State University. Jones scored a 26 on the ACT exam and has been accepted to Alcorn State, Xavier University in New Orleans and the University of Southern Mississippi. 

Robinson has been accepted to Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State and Jackson State. All scholarship recipients had at least a 3.3 GPA.

The chapter also raffled off a chair from Woodstock in Meridian that was won by Porter.