COLUMBIA — One room in Second Baptist Church was decorated Thursday night with blue and yellow balloons and signs, the signature colors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
About 40 people attended the celebration in honor of the 100th anniversary of the NAACP, which was founded Feb. 12, 1909.
The party included speeches, prayer, songs and refreshments. There was also a table display of local and national organization history, including newspaper clippings and photographs from the past.
Mary Ratliff, president of both the NAACP's Columbia unit and its Missouri State Conference, served as the master of ceremonies for the evening and spoke about the significance of the event.
"It's very exciting to know that with all the changes going on in today's society, that you have played a little part in that," Ratliff said.
Ratliff said that following recent notable celebrations, such as the events for Martin Luther King Jr. Day last month, the Columbia chapter had considered not celebrating the 100th anniversary at all.
"About a week and a half ago, I decided that we had to do something to celebrate," Ratliff said.
NAACP youth council member Kadarrius Anderson provided music, as did members of the church's choir.
George Farris, a 45-year NAACP member, also spoke at the event. His speech, which highlighted key events during the civil rights movement and political initiatives involving the NAACP, was a reflection on how far the organization has come.
Farris also said it is very significant for a black organization to turn 100. The only other black organizations that have been in existence longer than the NAACP are the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, he said.
Farris said the NAACP's mission of equality extends beyond racial boundaries.
"The purpose of the NAACP is to elevate the living conditions of all groups and to raise the level of understanding between them," he said. "We've got to learn to love everybody. God is in the work of the NAACP."
The evening ended with refreshments. As partygoers dug into the cake and punch, they gathered in front of a large television to watch the 40th NAACP Image Awards, which honor the contributions of black Americans to the arts.