ANDERSON — Education is a community effort.
Those were the words of Octavia Thorns-Jackson, vice chancellor of academic affairs for Ivy Tech Anderson, during her keynote speech at the NAACP Anderson branch’s annual B. Harry Beckham Freedom Fund Banquet.
“There was a time when everyone in our community made sure that all of our children received nurturing, compassionate, disciplined support and education,” she said Saturday, Nov. 5.
“We can talk about what is lacking in our K-12, and we have some responsibility in what is missing, but do we pay attention to what is there?
“Have we used our collective voice, time and talents effectively to support the schools’ programs and the teachers in the classrooms, or are we only prepared when it’s time to cuss the teacher out?”
Jackson serves as a teacher and mentor to several students, including Tashon Fuller, who received a $500 scholarship during the event at Anderson Country Club.
Teachers know the material, but Black teachers know the struggles faced by their Black students. Bringing a sense of understanding and empathy into the field, for Fuller, is important. She said Black women often face unequal treatment in health care.
“We as African-Americans feel the health care field really does not serve us the way they serve other cultures.”
The treatment of expectant mothers was cited by Fuller as an example. She said pregnant Black women often tell stories of being treated poorly by nurses and doctors in various ways.
A prenursing major who aspires to be an endocrinologist, Fuller wants to be someone who has not only medical but personal knowledge. Fuller is an aspiring doctor and a diabetic.
“Not only do I want to treat their diabetes, I want to actually connect with the patients that I have.”
Jackson talked about bringing Black people involved in every field to help provide a “web of support” around young people.
Fuller has experienced that “web of support” from Jackson. In her acceptance speech and a later interview, she said Jackson has been a “Black mamma” to her, in that she knows how to hold her ground. Fuller said Jackson’s kept her focused on her academic goals.
William “Bill” Watson, president of the Anderson-Madison County NAACP, said he decided to give the President’s Award to seven people, saying he couldn’t just pick one between Terri Austin, Lennon Brown, Rodney Cummings, Lela Kelly, Veda Morris-May, Aimee Robertson-West and Kim Townsend.
The B. Harry Beckham Award was given to Vanessa Duncan, treasurer for the organization. The award is named after Beckham, who was the first Black real estate broker in Anderson and the first person in Anderson to become a member of the NAACP.
Watson awarded major donor awards to the City of Anderson, Community Hospital Anderson, Harrah’s Hoosier Park and Prairie Farms.