James, women's group, honored at NAACP dinner


BLOOMINGTON — Local residents were honored for their voter registration efforts Saturday night at the Bloomington-Normal NAACP Annual Freedom Fund Banquet.

Jerry James, the group’s treasurer and political action chairman, received the Roy Wilkins Award for his efforts with voter registration. James has been active in organizing voter registration drives and encouraging people to get registered and to exercise their right to vote. He has worked with organizations such as Not In Our Town, the McLean County YMCA, the Bloomington Housing Authority and several others.

The award is named after Roy Wilkins and is considered the ultimate achievement for service in the local branch. Wilkins, from St. Louis, was a notable activist in the civil rights movement and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1967.

The women of the Bloomington-Normal Graduate Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority have worked with James on his voter registration efforts to register voters in the community and were honored with the Merlin Kennedy Award. The organization has set up tables at community events and canvased neighborhoods to register voters, NAACP officials said.

The Merlin Kennedy Community Service Award was created to honor people in the community who make a difference in the areas of community service, promoting diversity and inclusion. Kennedy of Bloomington was honored two years ago as a McLean County History Maker.

The awards were presented at the annual Freedom Fund Banquet, held Sunday at the DoubleTree Hotel and Convention Center in Bloomington. Litesa Wallace, a state representative of Illinois District 67 from Rockford, was the keynote speaker.

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