NAACP honors five members for service to Martha’s Vineyard

NAACP of Martha's Vineyard president Erik Blake (back row, center) stands with (left to right) Rev. Alden Besse, Joyce Stiles-Tucker, Rabbi Caryn Broitman, Heidi Dietterich, and Laurie Perry-Henry, who were honored at the organization's annual dinner. — Photo by Steve Myrick

The NAACP of Martha’s Vineyard honored five Islanders for service to others at the organization’s annual membership and awards dinner Monday night.

The group marked its 50th anniversary with an elegant evening dinner at the Grille on Main in Edgartown. Columbia Law School professor and Oak Bluffs home owner Patricia Williams was the featured speaker.

Ms. Williams spoke about one of her latest areas of study and legal advocacy, called the “school to prison pipeline,” a phenomenon she identified as institutional inequality that sometimes results in minority students going to jail for relatively minor offenses while at school.

Following her talk, NAACP members asked questions. One member asked if Ms. Williams thought President Barack Obama has done enough to address inequality in the criminal justice system. Her answer began with a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, who spoke often about an “endless moral commitment” to justice.

“The commitment sometimes seems endangered,” Ms. Williams said. She said the Obama administration has made progress on criminal justice issues, but the president’s style, and expectations of the people who elected him, have made the progress difficult to see.

“A lot of this work is hard, because we don’t have a great political will. There is this image of President Obama, that we elected a combination of Martin Luther King, Malcom X, and Jesus Christ. He is a centrist law professor. You don’t get to be a centrist law professor by being a flaming radical.”

Oak Bluffs police chief and newly elected president of the NAACP Erik Blake began the evening program with a surprise bouquet of flowers for first vice-president Carrie Tankard, who was celebrating her birthday.

Also honored Monday evening for their service to Martha’s Vineyard and the NAACP were Rabbi Caryn Broitman of the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center; Heidi Dietterich, nutrition manager for the Island’s Meals on Wheels program; Tisbury senior center director Joyce Stiles-Tucker; The Reverend Alden Besse, former pastor of Grace Episcopal Church, and Laurie Perry-Henry, who has served as president of the NAACP for the past four years, and was recently elected treasurer.

In addition to Mr. Blake, Ms. Tankard, and Ms. Perry-Henry, the NAACP officers include Second vice-president Richard Shepard, and secretary Liza Coogan.

Mr. Blake closed the evening with an appeal for new members and for current members to become more involved. He invited anyone interested in participating to attend the NAACP’s regular meetings, held the second Sunday of every month at 2 pm, at the Hillside Village community room in Vineyard Haven.