GRANITEVILLE - Only one other thing has defined A.P. Nivens' life as much as teaching school. The 84-year-old Aiken woman has been a stalwart supporter of the NAACP since 1935.
"As long as God lets me live, I'll be a member!" she exclaimed.
Dr. Nivens was joined by many others Sunday at Valley Fair Baptist Church to celebrate the 82nd anniversary of the Aiken branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
The joyous occasion came only one day after Ku Klux Klan members marched in nearby Burnettown, delivering a message of white power.
"We dismissed (the march). We simply dismissed it," said Aiken NAACP President David Walker. "They have their agenda, and we have ours."
The group, which does not release membership numbers, instead focused on its accomplishments during the years and what its members must do to ensure a promising future.
The celebration's clear message was to head to the polls in November to protect progress.
"Just two weeks ago, the KKK marched in Charleston," said the Rev. McKinley Washington, a former state senator and a speaker at the event. "We must work together to make things better. ... It's time for us to come together like we did many years ago. We must race to the polls to vote."
The Rev. Walker said the Aiken branch of the NAACP has successfully recruited many voters during the years. The group is in the middle of a drive to sign up voters up in time for the Nov. 7 election.
"This election is so important to all people, not just our people, but everybody," he said. "South Carolina has had a history of low voter turnout.
"So we're celebrating our anniversary today, plus pumping people up to get out and vote."
The Rev. Walker said the organization is most concerned with electing officials who will make the best Supreme Court appointments, provide health care for senior citizens, prevent school vouchers and pass hate-crime legislation.
"We need to continue to bring about change and progress within our communities," said the Rev. Washington, who is vice chairman of the South Carolina Employment Security Commission. "Some of us have become complacent. Some how we need to get back on track and realize the struggle is not over."
Reach Katie Throne at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.