Detroit's NAACP Freedom Fund dinner will feature 7 celebrity guests

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Steering away from tradition, the Detroit Branch of the NAACP said it is rolling out the red carpet to seven celebrity guests at its 67th annual Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner.

The organization announced Thursday it was foregoing its tradition of naming a keynote speaker for a series of forums featuring multiple guests that will be honored on May 1, including:

  • Actress Elise Neal of "The Black Hamptons"
  • Actress Annie Ilonzeh of "General Hospital" and "Chicago Fire"
  • Actor Lamman Rucker, star of "Greenleaf"
  • Comedian and writer Chris Spencer
  • TV personality Scott Evans, host of Access Hollywood
  • Actor Tobias Truvillion of "Empire"
  • And Angela Yee, radio personality of "The Breakfast Club"

The theme for this year’s dinner is “Freedom is expensive but tyranny is unaffordable.” The event will be held from 4-5 p.m. on May 1 at Huntington Place. Tickets can be purchased for $150 to $200 online.

Detroit Branch of the NAACP President Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony talks about the 67th Annual Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner scheduled for May 1 at a press conference on Thursday, April 21, 2022.

Detroit President Rev. Wendell Anthony said he's excited for the branch's 110th year. The branch was established just three years after the NAACP was established in 1909.

"As we face the onslaught of voter suppression, the marginalization of people and minorities throughout the nation, the recent, we believe, execution-stye murder of Patrick Lyoya on the part of a Grand Rapids police officer, still demands the need for police reform," Anthony said. "War in Ukraine and elsewhere, the need to find and preserve our freedom and our democracy remains paramount right here in the state of Michigan."

Anthony said the attack on the right to vote remains consistent with "Republican legislators seeking to suppress and intimidate the minority vote."

"We will not be deterred. We encourage everyone to take their souls to the polls and vote like their lives demand upon it because quite frankly, they do," Anthony said.

This year's event is a celebration of the branch.

"When you walk in, you'll walk through history, signs, symbols, and vigils that remind you of the struggle," Anthony said. 

Prior to the dinner, they will host a series of events including a faith leaders breakfast on April 30 featuring the Rev. Freddie Haynes III, pastor of the Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.

There will also be a job fair from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 28, then a youth career night focusing on college, skill trades and higher education. They will occur at Fellowship Chapel, located at 7707 West Outer Drive. The events are open and free but anyone who wants to attend must register at or call (313) 347-2834.

Former Judge Cynthia Stephens, recently retired from the Michigan Court of Appeals, will receive the Ida B. Wells award at the 67th Annual Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner in Detroit on May 1.

"As you can see, we have something for everyone," he said. "It will be a weekend where we keep our mind on the state of freedom and justice. It's a little different this year... with more surprises. We will have things that will inspire you to go out and continue the fight for freedom and justice."

Anthony also announced the lineup of awardees this year including:

  • Judge Cynthia Stephens, recently retired from the Michigan Court of Appeals, will receive the Ida B. Wells award
  • State Rep. Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing, will receive a Great Expectations Award
  • Christian Smalls, president of Amazon Labor Union, will receive a Great Expectations Award
  • Gary Torgow, chairman of Huntington Bank, will receive the James Weldon Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award.

Last year, Marcia Fudge, secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, addressed the city with an emphasis on Biden's Build Back Better aid to address flooding and the need for equal housing and infrastructure. Past dinner's keynote speakers include then-U.S. Senator for California Kamala Harris in 2020 and rapper Akon in 2019.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_