28th Utah NAACP lunch marks Martin Luther King, Jr. day

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 11 2012 8:54 p.m. MST

To celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, the NAACP Salt Lake Branch will host its 28th annual luncheon, featuring nationally known civil rights attorney Avery Friedman.

Friedman, who appears every Saturday as CNN's Weekend Legal Analyst, has been called a "walking reference source" on civil rights law by The Wall Street Journal, according to the NAACP. He has also been recognized by Time magazine, the New York Times and USA Today as a distinguished civil rights lawyer and professor. He received the NAACP's highest award, the Freedom Award.

Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the day is important to commemorate the civil rights movement and King's contributions.

However, "it's not only the one day in the civil rights area," but civil rights is something that needs to be remembered throughout the year, Williams said.

"We like to stress to the community that there's a lot more out there to do."

Currently, the NAACP in Utah is working to restrict payday lending, maintain affirmative action, and continue in the constant fight against discrimination, she said.

"Recently we're seeing a lot of discrimination in employment." People of color are often passed over for advancement or given fewer opportunities than less qualified or experienced whites, she said.

And state agencies set up to battle discrimination are "really kind of a window dressing," Williams added. It usually takes up to a year to get a response to a complaint, and in at least 10 years an employment discrimination complaint has never been resolved in favor of the complainant, she said.

"Their main objective is to be the doorstoppers. Some of the state offices — they need to just eliminate them."

Two prominent Utah African-Americans will also be honored at the luncheon. Third District Judge Tyron Medley will receive the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, and Gloria Wilkinson, Zions Bank vice president of community relations, will receive the Rosa Parks Award.

Up until 2000, Utah officially observed King's birthday as "Human Rights Day." It is the Utah NAACP's 28th annual Dr. King luncheon. Nationally, the NAACP was founded in 1909, the Utah chapter in 1919.

The event at the Little America Hotel is open to the public. Tickets are $65, available in advance by calling 801-250-5088, or at the door if still available.

Around 500 Utah members of the NAACP include blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, Polynesians and others, she said. For a $30 annual fee anyone can become a member, which includes a subscription to the organization's magazine, Williams added.

"Anybody who believes in equality and equal rights can be a member of the NAACP."

E-mail: lbrubaker@desnews.com

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