National civil rights attorney fires up Springfield NAACP crowd

Benjamin Crump addresses 10th annual Freedom Fund Event; Denise Williams honored for 10 years of service.

Credit: Brett Turner

Credit: Brett Turner

One of the country’s most prominent civil rights figures brought the crowd to its feet multiple times at the Springfield NAACP’s 10th Annual Freedom Fund Event on Sunday evening.

Attorney Benjamin Crump, who has worked on some high-profile cases involving Black Americans the past several years, inspired and informed the attendees at Christ in Us Ministries on how they can fight for justice.

The event also marked a decade of the Springfield chapter’s leadership under president Denise Williams, who had worked to revive it and has made new inroads in the community. She wanted to celebrate the effort in a big way.

Williams met Crump when working with the family of Springfield’s Eric Cole, who died after calling 911 for help after being shot and then was struck by a police cruiser as he lay wounded in the street in 2022.

Williams was determined to have Crump here as the keynote speaker. It wasn’t easy: his past few days included stops in Austin, Atlanta and Boston, arriving in Dayton early Sunday morning.

“Denise Williams had perseverance. My schedule is always busy, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Crump said during his speech, drawing laughs.

Crump’s tone turned serious as he talked about fighting for Cole’s family along with the other cases such as those of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tyre Nichols, especially where law enforcement was involved.

“The journey is long, but as long as we keep fighting, we win,” he said. “We need to speak from the heart and make the case.”

Crump gave an example of how civil rights leader Martin Luther King is now celebrated but was seen as a troublemaker in his time by people in power. Crump said follow King’s advice and oppose injustice when you see it. He also talked about how Black history is important and shouldn’t be eliminated from educational programs at the risk of repeating the mistakes of the past.

“We know in our heart what is right and what is wrong. Have the courage to stand for what is right. It’s about our children,” he said.

The end result Crump would like to see is for America to be for all Americans, concluding his address with “I rest my case.”

Tonya Avery, who is from Columbus and attends church at Christ in Us Ministries, was inspired by Crump’s message and waited to get a photo with him after the program with a mixture of excitement and nerves. Avery said he was the biggest celebrity she’s ever met, touched that Crump called her a “Black queen.”

“He’s been helping a lot of people get justice for their families and children and an inspiration to our Black community,” she said.

Avery wants to help curb violence in the community and to continue filling needs like providing meals for the hungry.

Credit: Brett Turner

Credit: Brett Turner

Williams was honored with a proclamation from U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton), an NAACP member, recognizing her 30-year Air Force career and building up the Springfield chapter. Her accomplishments during her presidency include building better relationships with local law enforcement, local school districts and the Nation of Islam, developing economic opportunities and doing diversity training with first responders.

“I’m just trying to give back to the community,” Williams said in accepting.

The event was attended by several community leaders, local clergy, state NAACP officers and others. Williams said the Springfield chapter still has a long way to go and reached out to attendees to join her.

“We’ve got work to do, but I can’t do without you. We’ve got some big things to do in 2024,” she said.

For more information about Springfield’s NAACP, go to

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