A Springfield native who became the first black man to become the vice president of diversity and inclusion for a NBA team will headline an annual fundraiser for the Springfield unit of the NAACP.
Maurice Stinnett, who works with the Brooklyn Nets, will be the keynote speaker for the NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet that will be held at the Hollenbeck Bayley Conference Center on Friday.
Stinnett grew up on the southside of Springfield and graduated from Springfield North High School in 2001, before receiving a master’s degree from Princeton University and another master’s and a doctorate from Columbia University.
He also served as the chairman for the World Leadership Program, an initiative under the Obama administration that worked to open up learning opportunities and start a dialog between graduate students and universities in the Middle East and the U.S.
The focus of Stinnett’s lecture will fall under the general theme of Friday evening’s event: “When we fight, we win.”
“It’s looking at how do we achieve those wins and what does those wins look like collectively,” Stinnett said. “You can also say that it is a call to remember that people of color have historically fought for things such as social justice, equality, and equity. And they have won.”
The annual fundraiser, entering its fifth year, is one of the largest fundrasing efforts for the Springfield unit of the NAACP. Money raised from the event goes towards maintaining daily operations for the organization that has over 100 members locally, said Denise Williams, the NAACP Springfield unit president.
That includes helping pay for the organization’s office space at the Commerce Point building on South Limestone Street, supplies, voter registration efforts and training sessions for the organization’s officers.
The fundraiser will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will feature a dinner as well as several performances, including gospel from a local church. Williams said her organization is hoping to raise $10,000, after paying expenses, from the event and are hoping to see a turnout of at least 400 people.
Tickets for the event are $50 per person and can be purchased beforehand at the NAACP’s Springfield office or at the event itself.
She said without the available funds, her organization would not be able to provide social services, including providing supplies to the homeless.
“It helps us financially to do the work that the community needs,” Williams said.
Current initiatives from the local unit include education opportunities about diversity and talks with the city of Springfield to offer diversity training to their employees.
Keeping up with that message, members of the local NAACP thought Stinnett would be a great fit for the event. Williams said she is always trying to bring in people who can speak on the importance of diversity and inclusion as well as the importance of voting.
Stinnett said he plans to discuss the meaning of the phrase “when we fight, we win,” in the context of what those fights look like as well as those wins for not only the entire community of Springfield, but in particular people of color.
Those fights could include individual ones to better oneself or their circumstances or it could be to tackle broad social issues. Those wins could include an increase in the quality of education, having access to adequate healthcare and increased employment opportunities.
Stinnett also said that he hopes that his personal story and his path to success will inspire others in the crowd.
“I grew up on the southside of Springfield, to a teenage, single mother, without a father present. According to all the statistical information out there, I was not suppose to go down the path I did,” he said. “But we chose to fight. My community chose to fight, my mother and grandmother chose to fight and I chose to fight with them.”
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