Six local women to be honored at Fannie Lou Hamer Awards Reception

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— The 19th annual Fannie Lou Hamer Awards Reception will be held on Sunday, October 5, 2014 in the Frances Scott Key Auditorium at St. John’s College located at 60 College Avenue in Annapolis from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Each year the event, sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Annapolis, recognizes six women who have contributed to the advancement of civil and human rights in Anne Arundel County. This year’s honorees include: Rhonda L. Johnson, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; Tryphenia Ellis Johnson, Continental Societies, Inc.; Pat Richardson, publisher, Capitol Gazette; Tracey Parker-Warren, Esquire, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Board; Connie West, Foster Parent; and Charyl “Whitney” Youngblood, Sojourner-Douglass College.

Tax-deductible tickets for the event are $35, which includes the awards ceremony and a reception with light fare. For tickets, call: 301-538-6353. Information at https://www.facebook.com/FootSoldiersMemorial

The Fannie Lou Hamer Awards recognizes women from various racial backgrounds who have excelled in their chosen field. Anne Arundel County is the only jurisdiction in the State of Maryland to recognize the birthday of Fannie Lou Hamer by hosting a tribute to her. The Fannie Lou Hamer awards are designed to honor women, who may not be household names, but like the late Mrs. Hamer worked diligently to improve civil and human rights in their community. Each year, a committee consisting of members of the community reviews the names of women who either live and or work in Anne Arundel County. Six women are chosen from the names that are submitted.

Pat Richardson of Annapolis, the publisher of the Capital-Gazette newspapers. Richardson was chosen because her publication has partnered with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee, Inc., in helping to create the award winning Civil Rights Foot Soldiers Memorial in 2013, which recognizes participants in the 1963 March on Washington. Her newspapers also partnered with the Martin Luther King Committee to create the first and only Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in the state of Maryland located at Anne Arundel Community College.

Rhonda L. Johnson, of Gambrills, president, of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, North Arundel County Alumnae was selected because of the work she has done in promoting voter registration and voter education. Like the late Mrs. Hamer, she has sought to empower the community by encouraging citizens to participate in the electoral process.

Tracey Parker Warren, Esq., of Severn, is a lawyer that has served on the Anne Arundel County Commission on Women and the Human Relations Commission. Currently a member of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee, Warren helped to spearhead the successful campaign to create the Civil Rights Foot Soldiers Memorial.

Tryphenia Ellis Johnson, of Severn, was selected to receive the 2014 Fannie Lou Hamer Award because of her involvement with the Anne Arundel County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In addition to supporting voter registration and voter education programs for the NAACP, she has worked with juveniles educating them on the criminal justice system.

Constance “Connie” West of Millersville was selected to receive the Fannie Lou Hamer Award because of her efforts at mentoring youth as well as being an active Foster Parent. She is a retired educator, who has decided to adopt children who are in need of parents.

Charyl “Whitney” Youngblood, of Edgewater, is a graduate of Sojourner Douglass College and has been active in the Annapolis Southern Maryland Alumni Association for Sojourner Douglass College. She has spearheaded numerous fundraising campaigns on behalf of the campus in Anne Arundel County.

Fannie Lou Hamer (October 6, 1917 – March 14, 1977) was an American voting rights activist and civil rights leader, the last of 20 children born to Mississippi sharecropper parents. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and later became the Vice-Chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, attending the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in that capacity. Her plainspoken manner and fervent belief in the biblical righteousness of her cause gained her a reputation as an electrifying speaker and civil rights activist.

Hamer continued to work in Mississippi for the Freedom Democrats and for local civil rights causes. She ran for Congress in 1964 and 1965, and was then seated as a member of Mississippi’s official delegation to the Democratic National Convention of 1968, where she was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War.

She worked on other projects, including grassroots-level Head Start programs, the Freedom Farm Cooperative in Sunflower County, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign.

Hamer died at the age of 57. Her tombstone reads one of her famous quotes, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

The Annapolis-based Martin Luther King Jr. Committee Inc., founded in 1988, hosts two major events each year, the annual Fannie Lou Hamer Reception in October and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner held in January to honor those local citizens whose leadership in civil rights has helped keep Dr. King’s legacy alive. The proceeds from these events are being used to pay off the debt incurred by building the Civil Rights Foot Soldiers Memorial.