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'Sky is not falling,' speaker assures NAACP on affirmative action

Some people are fired for making racial slurs. And others receive applause for their derogatory lyrics.

"Don Imus is not the biggest problem," Nicholas K. Fortson, chief executive officer of University Bank in Ann Arbor, Mich., said Sunday, referring to the CBS radio host whose racial slurs got him fired.

"We have music entertainment in African-American communities saying the same thing, and our kids are listening to it," Fortson said in addressing the 41st annual Medgar Evers Awards Dinner in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

The Buffalo native told the event, sponsored by the Buffalo Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, that he does not worry about the possible rejection of affirmative action policies in public institutions.

"The sky is not falling," Fortson said. "Seventy percent of the work force [consists of] women and minorities. The minority population is growing. Corporations will continue to draw from that talent pool."

The NAACP Buffalo Branch's 92nd anniversary honored area individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the community.

Receiving the the Medgar Evers Civil Rights Award was State Sen. Antoine M. Thompson, D-Buffalo, who served as a chairman for Committees on Education and Minority & Women Business Enterprise.

NAACP youth member Darryl G. Overton Jr. and the Bennett High School Mary Talbert Commemorative Committee each received the Youth Award.

Overton works as a volunteer mentor, tutor and teacher assistant at Buffalo Prep.

Through the efforts of the Mary Talbert Commemorative Committee at Bennett High School, a plaque honoring 19th century Buffalo activist Mary Talbert was unveiled last October in Forest Lawn.

James Reid, chief engineer for Buffalo Public Schools, was honored with the Human Relations Award for his commitment to Jefferson Avenue Community Church, his students at School 39 and his leadership during "Peace Day" on Dodge Street.

Also receiving the Human Relations Award was Louisiana Hilliard, who has served as a volunteer for Meals on Wheels for more than 27 years.

John H. Hackney and the Michigan Street Preservation Corp. were presented the Community Service award.

Hackney has been an active member of Trinity Baptist Church for 66 years and serves as treasurer, trustee and superintendent of the Sunday school.

e-mail: lmariacher@buffnews.com

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