“If tomorrow is enamored with yesterday, tomorrow will never come.”

The Rev. Larry J. Brown Jr.’s message of a successful passage from the past into the future was well-received by those in attendance at the ninth annual Franklin County NAACP Freedom Fund Luncheon on Saturday.

Community members, including local political candidates and business owners, packed the Pigg River Community Center for lunch, fellowship and to hear the words of Brown, a Baptist minister ordained by Emmanuel Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.

There are ways to honor yesterday, Brown said, while moving into tomorrow.

During his address, Brown focused on what would happen “if yesterday met tomorrow.”

Generations need to work together to move into the future, he said.

“When generations come together, they form a crucible of experience,” Brown said. “The past is a place of reference, not residence. If you live in the past, you will inevitably stay there, and time will move past you. We can choose to maintain or we can choose to strive to grow.”

Brown challenged attendees to consider the stories they are telling about themselves, and what they are willing to depart from for the possibility of a future.

“Without departure, no new beginning is possible,” he said. “Don’t be so in love with the idea of your past self, that you are paralyzed to the concerns and realities of the present.”

Brown warned that the stories people tell have the power to shape future trajectories.

“Stories can move us toward something, away from something or against something,” he said. “Tell and retell stories that move people toward your causes; that inspire people to connect with the narrative that you are telling. We are who we are because of what we have experienced, what we have been told and what we tell about ourselves. The stories you tell ultimately shape the lives that you live.”

Brown also spoke on the importance of being willing to change in order to better the future.

“Change, in essence, always means the death of something else,” he said. “To change takes work. It is a great risk, but an undeniable necessity. You are the precedent for tomorrow. This is your community. You have to figure out how to navigate the tensions and the conflicts in your own community.”

“The priority is on the relationship between one another, not the power we exert over one another,” he added.

Brown, who was raised in Jacksonville, Fla., is currently working to earn his doctorate in clinical psychology with a neuropsychology minor at Howard University.

One of his life goals is to help destigmatize mental health in religious and minority populations. He has served as a panelist, a consultant and a seminar leader in topics of leadership, religion/spirituality and mental health for church congregations and professional organizations, such as D.C. Public Schools, Jack & Jill of America and the Hip-Hop Professional Foundation. His favorite “heart-work” is as one of the mentors in Young Doctors DC — a multi-generational mentoring, educational pipeline to health careers programs for high school boys in Washington, D.C.

Mistress of ceremonies for Saturday’s luncheon was Brittny McGraw, evening news anchor at Roanoke’s NBC affiliate station WSLS.

McGraw spoke highly of the NAACP and its continued work.

“Everything that the organization continues to fight for, and the organization’s mission is very relevant in this day and age,” she said.

McGraw, of North Carolina, graduated from the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Her community involvement includes serving as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Virginia and serving as a member of both the Junior League of Roanoke Valley and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

Certificates of appreciation were presented to Brown and McGraw from Freedom Fund Luncheon Committee members.

To learn more about the Franklin County chapter of the NAACP and its work, contact Mary Helm at 483-9635 or Glenna Moore at 483-9469.

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