Growing up during turbulent times in Philadelphia is what initially sparked a lifelong interest in civil rights for Robert Levant.
Levant, a Philadelphia-based civil rights attorney, shared his personal experiences and discussed the need of the NAACP with community leaders, citizens and dignitaries during the Norwalk NAACP’s annual Freedom Fund Banquet on Friday.
“On a daily basis, I try to give practical voice to the words of the Constitution to ensure that it is there to protect all of our citizens,” said Levant.
“I’ve spent a good deal of my career working with African-American clients, defending them, counseling them and ensuring their civil rights. I don’t pretend I know what it means to walk a mile in your shoes but I do understand we have many more miles to walk before we have equality.”
Levant is a principal of Levant Martin, P.C., a Philadelphia law firm specializing in civil rights and criminal defense.
During his childhood, Levant said the city of brotherly love experienced riots, tension and anxiety under the leadership of Frank Rizzo, a former police commissioner and mayor.
“My parents were civil rights advocates. Threats and violence were directed at us and at our home. This is the part of history that started me on my course,” he said.
Norwalk NAACP President Darnell Crosland, a criminal defense attorney, called Levant “a lawyer’s lawyer” and “one of the brightest legal minds of our time.”
During the event, the Norwalk chapter posthumously awarded the late Judy Rivas with the Barbara Jean Edmonds Penn Memorial Award for Community Service. Rivas, who died in May, is a former common councilwoman and Board of Education member who worked for the Norwalk Public Library for 29 years, ensuring the library was-user friendly to the city’s Hispanic community.
The Norwalk NAACP also awarded Addie Stevens, first lady of Macedonia Church, with the Reverend J. P. Ball Memorial Award for Leadership. Stevens has conducted the church’s HIV and AIDS Ministry.
Diageo, Inc. received the Norwalk NAACP’s award for Corporate Citizenship.
The local chapter also presented three $500 scholarships to Class of 2014 high school graduates Andrea Barros of Brien McMahon High School, Tiasa Brown of Norwalk High School and Daisy Campos of Briggs High School.
WABC New York meteorologist Bill Evans served as the master of ceremonies for the annual event held at The Water’s Edge at Giovanni’s in Darien. Evans has spent a number of years working with NAACP chapters throughout the South and Fairfield County.
The event marked the 14th anniversary of the Norwalk chapter’s Freedom Fund Banquet. The local chapter celebrated this year’s theme of “Many Faces, One Vision”
“I’m excited because as a branch, we remain committed to meeting the needs of the community,” said Crosland. “I am hopeful that as the world changes that our branch is blessed with the people and the talent to allow us to grow and respond appropriately to that change.”
Levant credited the NAACP for many of the strides made in the national arena of civil rights during its 105-year history.
“The NAACP is an organization founded and sustained by brave civil right leaders and passionate men and women who dedicated themselves by bringing our society together, addressing common challenges and focus attention on the problems and inequities that too many of our citizens face,” said Levant.
“Especially in times of need and moments of danger, members of the NAACP have dared to seek opportunities for progress and growth, challenging this nation to aim higher, to become better and move closer to a sounding ideal.”