By Dedra Cordle
Giving recognition to those who fly under the radar was the theme of the 9th annual Black History Celebration in the Village of Urbancrest.
“These individuals are those who have often been overlooked for their accomplishments,” said Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr. at the start of the ceremony in late February.
The night’s recipients included professional advocates, public servants, frank advice givers and those always willing to lend a helping hand.
“In their own way, they have made their mark and have helped the community move forward,” said Barnes.
Receiving distinguished honors for their contributions to the village were Gladys Johnson Curry and community advocate Maude Hill.
Curry, who has resided in the village for over 77 years, was praised not only for her longevity – she recently celebrated her 100th birthday – but also for her dedication to the people in the village.
“If you did something wrong, she would tell you about it,” said Barnes.
He said her advice was always keeping people out of trouble, and she was definitely not afraid to tell parents if their kids were doing something wrong.
“There are not a lot of people here in this room who were not properly chastised by Mrs. Curry,” he said to laughter from the crowd.
Maude Hill, the vice president for community and government relations at Homeport, was recognized for her work in bringing about positive change to the village, specifically to the Bending Brook Apartment complex.
“That area used to be known as Urban Hollow and its conditions were not good,” said Barnes.
He said there was deterioration of the building, neglect of its surroundings and an abundance of drug use and drug deals taking place at and around the community.
“She helped change that.”
Barnes said at a personal risk to her career, she stood up for the village with government agencies and fought for funding and access so the residents could live in better conditions.
Hill said she was honored to be recognized for her work, but said it was important for those in positions of power to stand up for others and help out the less fortunate.
“I was always taught that if you get in the door, it is your obligation to make sure others get through the door as well.”
After thanking the mayor for his partnership, she teased an upcoming project in the village, but stayed mum when pressed for details.
“You might see some rumblings in the next year or two,” she said.
Three public servants were also honored for their work in helping to improve the living conditions of those in the village.
Josephine Bradley was given the Distinguished Service Award, as was Elaine Turner, for their dedication to keeping the village running smoothly through their work as trustees on the board of public affairs.
Bradley said she was inspired by the work ethic of her late husband Nathaniel, a long-time street commissioner, and wanted to do as good as a job in her role as he did in his. Turner’s daughter Traci said her mother was inspired by the people in the village and the village’s potential to grow.
Current village council member Deborah Larkins-Jackson was given the 20 Years of Distinguished Service award for her decades long work in village government.
Larkins-Jackson said her desire to serve began when she would pass out flyers for union rights as a child. She said she was immensely proud to have served the village for as long as she has.
Long-time resident Curtis Webb was honored with the Mayor Ellen Walker-Craig Jones Community Service award for his efforts to feed the community through his love for gardening.
Barnes said though Webb tends to many gardens, he often refuses help.
“It’s for fear that someone will mess it up,” he joked.
Tony Quinn, the owner and operator of Southwest Lawn and Landscaping, was also given the community service award for his willingness to lend a helping hand during weather related emergencies.