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Hillary Clinton keynote speaker at NAACP’s Freedom Dinner, talks prison reform

Hillary Clinton giving keynote address at the NAACP’s 61st Annual Fight for Freedom Dinner in Detroit (Photo Credit: Porsha Monique for Steed Media)

The NAACP held its 61st Annual Fight For Freedom Dinner on Sunday, May 1 at the Cobo Center located in downtown Detroit. As the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, this annual dinner serves as the Detroit Branch NAACP’s largest fundraiser. The event is usually attended by approximately 10K people every year, and this year was no different. The theme for this year’s dinner was “Let America Be America Again,” themed after legendary poet Langston Hughes’ poem of the same name.

Former Secretary of State, the Honorable Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton served as the keynote speaker, and made some powerful assurances in support of her run for president. The current candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination spoke of how great it was to work under the leadership of President Barack Obama. She also spoke about the Flint Water crisis, and her plan for free college tuition to public universities. She also provided information about her desire to reform the criminal justice system and how she would like to fix the crisis of mass incarceration. Clinton said, “… not just acknowledging, but fixing the crisis of mass incarceration. Let’s eliminate the disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine. Let’s end racial profiling. These are things I fought for as a senator, and I’ll fight for them as president.”

Clinton went on to say ,”We are going to dismantle the school to prison pipeline and create a cradle to college pipeline in its place. We’re also going to do more to help people pay their debt to society. They need a second chance; they should have the opportunity to get it. Let’s ban the ‘box.’ Let’s give people a fair shot at competing for jobs. Let’s invest in job training and housing so people trying to do the right thing have a fair shot at rebuilding their lives. And let’s return the vote to everyone that has paid their debt to society. If America is really a country that believes in second chances, let’s start acting like it.”

In addition to Clinton being the keynote speaker, the following recipients were honored in the areas of a Lifetime Achievement Award, Freedom and Justice awards, and Great Expectations Awards as noted below:

2016 James Weldon Johnson Lifetime Achievement Awardee

  • Honorable James Clyburn, Congressman, United States House of Representatives (D-SC)


2016 Ida B. Wells Freedom and Justice Awardee

  • Ivy Bailey, President, Detroit Federation of Teachers


2016 Mary Church Terrell Freedom and Justice Awardee

  • Honorable Goeff Hansen, Michigan State Senator (34th District)

2016 Great Expectations Awardees

  • Shaka Senghor, Author, Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison
  • Honorable Mary Sheffield, Councilwoman, City of Detroit