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Windham NAACP presents scholarship to Eastern student

Published on June 10, 2022

Windham NAACP presents scholarship to Eastern student

Eastern President Elsa Nunez, left, and NAACP President Leah Ralls, right, congratulate Adalyse Gonzales on winning an NAACP scholarship.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez, left, and NAACP President Leah Ralls, right, congratulate Adalyse Gonzales on winning a NAACP scholarship.

On June 4 at a packed house at the Lakeview Restaurant in Coventry, the Windham/Willimantic Branch of the NAACP presented Adalyse Gonzales ’22 a scholarship for her academic and athletic achievements. The award took place during the NAACP’s Annual Freedom Fund event.

Gonzales maintains a 3.4 GPA, is a national honor society member is also a four-year member of Eastern’s Women’s Basketball Team, where she’s been part of two championship teams. She was selected as an all-league performer three times.

Gonzales is also an active member of Eastern’s community, where she participated in this year’s Lock-In for Literacy overnight event and has helped to promote school events designed to promote a positive climate. She has volunteered to participate in reading events for youth at the Willimantic Public Library and has cleaned the Airline Trail and participated in the annual Relay for Life Cancer fundraiser. Gonzales will attend the University of St. Joseph’s in the fall to study exercise science, while continuing her basketball career.

Other scholarship winners included James Smith, a fashion design major at Lasell University, where he carries a 3.5 GPA; Mia Ray, a University of Connecticut student majoring in Psychology; and Naliyah Santiago, a student at Shaw University majoring in Sociology.

Carlita Cotton

Carlita Cotton delivered the keynote address at the NAACP’s Annual Freedom Fund event.

The vision of the Windham/Willimantic NAACP, the fastest growing chapter in Connecticut, is a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race. UConn Psychology Professor Carlita Cotton delivered the keynote address. She encouraged the audience to grapple with the NAACP’s theme of “fighting forward.”

She cited numerous incidents of historical racial hate dating back to the Revolutionary War before she discussed present day rhetoric of “white replacement” fueling the 2015 murder of nine church members at Emanuel AME Church South Carolina; the 2017 alt-right rally in Charlottesville, VA; the slaughter of 13 worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018; the mass killing of 23 people, most of whom were Hispanic, at a Walmart store in El Paso, TX in 2019; the Tops Friendly Markets supermarket mass shooting in Buffalo; and the 101 hate crimes reported in 2020 in Connecticut. Sixty-one (61) of those crimes targeted an individual’s race, ethnicity or ancestry.

“I think we need to pause for a second and acknowledge that,” said Cotton. “What we’re really talking about is fighting forward when our hearts are heavy with grief and we’re desperately trying to hold it all together while trauma-fatigue wears us down.”

Cotton said the rise in hate crimes, coupled with housing, health and food insecurities, employment inequities and disproportionate minority convictions and confinement compel the NAACP to action in 2022. She said fighting forward is a must “because we haven’t overcome yet; because we do not all have equal opportunity to achieve economic success; because racism is a health crisis, because there are disparities in the quality of care received; and because it’s not evident that all lives matter.”

She said quitting is not an option. “Don’t give up, shut up, or let up-- until you have stayed up, marched up, voted up, lifted up, advocated up, maybe even prayed up, and definitely worked up for the cause of political, educational, social and economic equality of rights for all persons.”

“As Benjamin Mays admonished us: ‘The tragedy of life is not found in failure, but complacency. Not in you doing too much but doing too little. Not in you living above your means, but below your capacity. It's not failure, but aiming too low, that is life's greatest tragedy.’ So, keep fighting forward, my friends – keep fighting forward.”

Other award winners included Celia Proctor and Claudia Allen (President’s Award); Rodney Alexander (Jackie Owens Above and Beyond Award); Donna Defresene (Humanitarian Award); Brianna Anderson (Black Excellence Award); Christine Pattee (Gary Ralls Fight the Power Award); and Brenda Buchbinder (Coach Corey Baker Community Service Award).

Eastern was the sole gold sponsor of the Freedom Fund event. Silver sponsors included ACURE, Joe Courtney and Windham Mayor Tom DeVivo. Bronze sponsors included Carol and Kemetz Harris, Berkshire Bank and the Eastern Society. Senator Mae Flexer and State Reps. Brian Smith and Susan Johnson were also on hand.

Written by Dwight Bachman