The community's annual Freedom Fund Banquet will feature two Rhodes Scholars, both African-American men with ties to Hopkinsville who were awarded the scholarship for postgraduate applicants at Oxford University that attracts interest from across the globe.

"We just really thought that was a special thing," said Javanta Dawson of their participation in the banquet that raises funds for scholarships and local civil rights initiatives and programs.

Dawson is chairman of the political action committee of the Hopkinsville-Christian County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that sponsors the annual banquet, and she also is an executive member of the local branch of the NAACP.

Keynote speaker for the banquet set for 6 p.m. Nov. 2 at the Pioneers Complex will be Dr. Darryl Banks, a scientist and expert on sustainable environmental technologies who has extensive experience in environmental policy management. Banks will be introduced by Dr. Raymond Burse, a life member of the local NAACP branch and last year's keynote speaker.

Burse is a graduate of Christian County High School, while Banks is a Hopkinsville High School graduate. The community is invited to meet both men during a meet and greet session slated for 6 p.m. Nov. 1, also at the Pioneers Complex located at 904 N. Main St., in Hopkinsville.

The two will be presented with a proclamation from the City of Hopkinsville at the meet and greet, and Dawson said the banquet itself will also include a presentation of awards in recognition of individuals who have made notable contributions in the local community.

Banks, currently a resident of Potomac, Maryland, is president of RDBanks Consulting, an energy and environmental sustainability strategy firm which focuses on renewable energy and clean energy technologies, carbon management, corporate sustainability, environmental management services and environmental regulatory and technology policy.

Until recently, he was vice president for energy policy at the Center for American Progress.

Banks serves on numerous boards of directors and advisory groups for a range of organizations. As a Rhodes Scholar, he was at Oxford's Jesus College, where he pursued Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy studies in biophysics. In 2009, he was awarded an honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, a British order of chivalry.

Banks and his wife, Margery Baker, have three adult children.

Burse served as vice president and general counsel for GE -- Appliances & Lighting until his retirement in 2012 and was president of Kentucky State University twice, the first time from 1982 to 1989 and again from July 2014 until May 2016, following his retirement from GE.

He also previously was a partner in the law firm of Wyatt, Tarrant and Combs in Louisville from July 1989 until August 1995 and had been an associate in that firm beginning in 1978.

Burse was named a Rhodes Scholar in 1973 and studied for two years at St. John's College at Oxford. He is a graduate of Centre College in Danville and received his juris doctor from Harvard Law School. He and his wife Kim Burse have three sons and three grandchildren.

Dawson noted that organizers of the upcoming banquet would like to have 200 people at the event.

While the meet and greet on Nov. 1 is free, tickets for the banquet are $25 for adults and $15 for children, with tables of eight available for $200, according to Dawson. Tickets are available from any branch member or can be picked up at the Aaron McNeil Center at 604 E. Second St.

The center can be reached by phone at 270-297-4834, and banquet tickets are further available by calling or texting the Rev. John Banks Jr., local branch president, at 270-839-8929.

Checks should be made payable to "Hopkinsville Branch NAACP."

No tickets will be sold at the door, Banks noted in a letter he wrote to community leaders about the upcoming banquet. Dawson said the deadline for purchasing tickets is Oct. 26.

Individuals may also support the local NAACP branch by purchasing an ad in the Freedom Fund Banquet's souvenir program booklet. A platinum sponsorship of $750 will include an ad inside the front or back cover of the program, two banquet tickets, a table at the meet and greet and a mention during all radio interviews about the upcoming banquet.

A $500 gold sponsorship includes a full-page ad in two programs, two banquet tickets and a mention during all radio interviews. Anyone purchasing silver sponsorships of $350 will receive a half-page ad in the programs, two banquet tickets and mention in all radio interviews.

For $200 bronze sponsorships, the individual receives a ticket and a quarter-page ad.

For $25, the person will have his name mentioned in the souvenir booklet.

Banks noted that individuals' financial support will help the branch provide local residents with an opportunity to share in political, educational, social and economic equality.

He said the Hopkinsville branch, which is the second oldest in the state, has improved the social, economic and political conditions of disenfranchised people by following the guidelines of the national NAACP, and Banks said the local group is proud of its activism in the community.

He said the NAACP is the oldest, largest and most effective civil rights organization in the country. It was established in 1909 by an interracial group concerned about the challenges facing African-Americans, according to information found online at britannica.com.

The local branch meets at 6 p.m. on the third Monday of each month at the Aaron McNeil Center.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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