For the first time, a white person will be the speaker at the Rome-Floyd County NAACP chapter’s annual Freedom Fund Banquet.

Organizer Alvin Jackson said they chose the Rev. Dr. Robert Brown, lead pastor of Rome First United Methodist Church, to highlight the theme of the banquet — “Coming Together as One Community ... Our Past, Our Present, Our Future.”

Many color lines have been broken, but churches remain divided, Jackson said.

“The church is one of the most segregated places in town on Sunday,” he said.

By reaching out to one of Rome’s white religious leaders, the NAACP hopes to establish greater community connections.

Brown said he feels honored and humbled to be asked, and he hopes to use his speech as a call to action.

“I do plan to emphasize the need in our surrounding community concerning foster care,” Brown said.

“It will be a clarion call to action for all those attending to invite others to form a strategic alliance that works for equality and justice for all humankind, most especially the children in our midst,” he added.

Just over 400 Floyd County children were in foster care as of April, with 69 percent of them living elsewhere because there aren’t enough foster homes here.

Brown said he seeks to utilize the resources of the NAACP.

“I believe it would be a wonderful opportunity for the NAACP to take the lead in ending the foster care crisis in Floyd County,” he said.

Jackson said the NAACP is thought of as a black organization only, but involvement is open to anyone regardless of race.

“Whether you’re black or white, we want people to know that we serve the entire community,” Jackson said.

Much of the work done by Rome’s chapter is to increase involvement in political and societal functions.

“We want to get more people involved in Rome and Floyd County,” Jackson said. “We want more people involved in downtown development, and want them to get on school boards and commissions.”

Jackson said his organization preaches the importance of voting. It actively educates residents on local candidates and encourages participation in elections.

“Their vote really counts and they need an equal voice,” Jackson said. “If we can all come together then we can make some positive change.”

During the banquet, people who took part in the civil rights movement in Rome and Floyd County will be honored.

The event will begin at 6 p.m. Friday at the Rome Civic Center, 400 Civic Center Drive.

Tickets are $30 each or $220 for a table of eight and can be bought at Kroger, 1476 Turner McCall Blvd. Tickets can also be bought from NAACP members, or by calling 706-235-7415 or 706-802-1659.