The melodic sounds of nearly 200 people singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” filled the room at the Tyler Rose Garden Center on Thursday, commencing the annual Freedom Fund Scholarship Banquet hosted by the Tyler-Smith County branch of the NAACP No. 6232.

The banquet honored outstanding community members, awarded academic scholarships and raised funds to support youth education and community programming.

The NAACP No. 6232 presented this year’s $1,500 youth scholarship to recent Robert E. Lee High School graduate Maniya Dixon. Dixon received another $1,500 scholarship from Tyler Junior College, where she’ll be attending school this fall.

Minister Edward J. Robinson spoke on the theme of the night, “Education Matters.” He said people need a GED, or God, education and dreams, to survive and thrive in life.

“Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today,” he said, quoting Malcolm X.

Several awards were presented, recognizing attendees for service to the community. Retired Tyler Police Officer Herbert Hayter received the Ernest Deckard Humanitarian Award and Dr. Kent Willis and retired teacher Aiszeleen Stansell were honored with Community Service Awards.

To close out the night, attendees stood, held hands and sang “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand” by Diana Ross.

For more information on how to get involved with NAACP No. 6232, visit

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