6 local women chosen for Fannie Lou Hamer Award

| September 27, 2017
Rams Head

Chosen from across Anne Arundel County, six trailblazing women will be honored during the centennial birthday celebration (October 6) of the late civil rights heroine, Fannie Lou Hamer.  This will be 22nd annual Fannie Lou Hamer Awards Reception, held from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1, at the Frances Scott Key Auditorium at St. John’s College in Annapolis.  Known for impacting their community—whether through social justice or historical outreach—each woman made a lasting mark on Anne Arundel County. All of this year’s honorees—Sara Elfreth, Yasemine Jamison, MiaLissa Tompkins, Lisa DeJesus, Yvette Morrow and Debbie Ritchie join the ranks of more than 100 notable women, including former Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Administrative Law Judge Tracey Warren Parker, and former Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer. In the spirit of Hamer, honoree, Sara Elfreth, in her twenties,is an advocate for voter registration and equal representation in government. Honoree, Yasemine Jamison, is a Muslim social activist and founder of Anne Arundel Indivisible, a local group fighting to end inequality in the political process. Many previous winners will be in attendance and recognized. Other notable invited guests include Senator Ben Cardin, Senator Chris Van Holland, Congressman John P. Sarbanes, Congressman Anthony Brown, Anne Arundel Councilman, Pete Smith and Annapolis Alderman Kenneth A. Kirby. Additionally, Panayiotis Kanelos, the new president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, will offer welcoming remarks. The ceremony will include a ten-minute National History Day award wining play on Fannie Lou Hamer written by Allie Tubbs of Oklahoma and will be performed by students from St. John’s College. The event is sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Anne Arundel County and co-sponsored by St. Johns College. Tickets are $35 in advance, and will also be available at the door. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 301.538.6353 or 410.419.2208 or e-mail [email protected]. Contact Facebook pages; MLKMD or Carl Snowden for event details.

Fannie Lou Hamer, 1917-1977, was an American voting rights activist, civil rights leader, and philanthropist. The awards that bear her name recognize women from various racial backgrounds who, while not necessarily household names, have excelled in their chosen field while working diligently to improve civil and human rights in the region.

“Mrs. Hamer was a feminist and a civil rights heroine,” said Carl Snowden, chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee. “Each year, on the eve of her birthday, Marylanders pause to honor this Mississippian, a sharecropper, who shared a passion for economic and social justice.”

A committee of community residents choose six outstanding women each year from a list of nominees who live and/or or work in Anne Arundel County. Anne Arundel is the only jurisdiction in the State of Maryland to celebrate Hamer’s memory with awards of this nature.

“We are living right now in a world that is fighting for change on many levels, from social unrest in out cities, to expansive international crises,” said former Sen. Mikulski, a 2009 Hamer honoree. “And while the news may seem grim, there is inspiration every day around the world as people come together to bring about peaceful change.”

Annapolis resident, Sara Elfreth, holds a B.A. in Political Science from Towson University and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from John’s Hopkins University. Sarah lives in downtown Annapolis and has dedicated her career to fighting for quality public education, protecting the Bay, and creating jobs. Sarah worked with universities to implement economic development plans and to revitalize local communities, all while creating 21st century jobs. Previously, she served as the Government Affairs Director for the National Aquarium. She is a graduate of the inaugural class of Emerge Maryland, an organization dedicated to increasing the number of Democratic women serving in elected office. Recently, Elfreth was instrumental in seeing that a woman was among the six individuals commissioned by the Annapolis Mayor to nominate the next Anne Arundel community Police Chief.

Yasemine Jamison, like Fannie Lou Hamer, is an activist and agent of change. She resides in Arnold, MD. As a Muslim who immigrated to this country as a child, she is acutely aware of the importance of equality and diversity in leadership. Yasemine is a committed member of the greater community and has spearheaded many progressive causes.  Among these was joining with the Caucus of African-American Leaders, to stand behind the ACLU in its demand that the Anne Arundel County Council chair not deny people the right to speak at meetings of the Anne Arundel County Council. In addition, Yasemin was involved with the NAACP and the Caucus of African-American Leaders in their 2017 summer of protest at the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. This was in protest of the all-white circuit court in the county. As the founder of Anne Arundel Indivisible, Yasemine works closely with local activists to oppose racism, sexism, and hatred in the political process.

Local entrepreneur and realtor, MiaLissa Tompkins,  spends her days making a difference in the lives of families by helping them achieve their goal of home ownership.  “For me being a r [email protected]ealtor isn’t ‘work’ it’s a chance to help a family make their dreams come true.” In the tradition of Fannie Lou Hamer, MiaLissa, works to ensure that families of all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds are able to build long-lasting ties with their communities, schools and local businesses by helping them find the perfect place to call home.

Lisa DeJesus, affectionately known as “Peachy,” is a Master Stylist, owner and operator of Salon DeJesus, an Annapolis-based hair salon and barbershop specializing in all hair types. Lisa is a former Cosmetology educator in the Anne Arundel County Public School system, and a former member of the Pink Hatters Society. A native Annapolitan and graduate of Annapolis Senior High School, she began her career in as a beautician in 1981, became a licensed cosmetologist in 1984 and opened her own salon in 1993 where she has been in business ever since.

Lisa’s commitment to beautification does not end with her salon. She has made it part of her life’s purpose to serve the community at large, specifically the Annapolis Gardens community. For the past 27 years, she has actively contributed to the annual holiday events in the Annapolis Gardens community serving over 100 children. She has also hosted and contributed to annual coat and prom attire drives. Lisa also assisted in implementing and promoting a summer health and fitness camp for children to promote active and healthy lifestyles.

Annapolis resident, Yvette Jackson Morrow, is a professional with over twenty years of experience in the legal field.  She is also a business owner and active participant in many originations including the Anne Arundel County NAACP, which presented her with organization’s President’s award in 2014. Yvette he has been a committed member of the Anne Arundel County Continental Societies, Inc., serving as Historian and Chair of Recreation. She is also member of the American Legion’s Cook-Pinkney Post 141 Auxiliary.

Yvette oversees numerous fundraisers including the United Way, Walk MS, and Susan G. Race for the Cure.  To date, she has raised over $200,000 for the organizations.  She has a passion for giving back especially to children and the elderly.  Once a month, Yvette organizes a food drive, partnered with SOME (So Others May Eat) to feed senior citizens in the Washington, DC area. She also spearheaded the backpack drive for inner city schools collecting and donating over 275 backpacks and school supplies. Yvette has adopted her grandmother’s motto, “I may not be able to save the world, but if I can make a difference in one person’s life, I have done more than many.”

Like Fannie Lou Hamer, Deborah Ritchie views education is the great equalizer. As a former member of the Anne Arundel Board of Education, she has been a strong advocate for parents and students. Deborah initiated numerous community outreach programs aimed at discussing educational issues and worked to increase diversity in the Community Advisory Council (CAC).  One of her greatest passions has been her involvement with the PTA. After initially joining the PTA at the school where her daughter attended Kindergarten, Deborah went on to serve on the Anne Arundel Council of PTA’s as well as at the state PTA.  There, she advocated for all children, providing support, and assisting local units evolve from fundraisers to effective partners in education.  “In my work with other PTA units and during training I helped people understand how having a diverse PTA and including others would only enhance the PTA and provide a rich environment for all students,” said Ritchie.

Fannie Lou Hamer was the last of 20 children born to Mississippi sharecropper parents. She was instrumental in organizing MississippiFreedom 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, N.J., in that capacity.

Her plainspoken manner and fervent belief in the Biblical righteousness of her cause gained her a reputation as an electrifying speaker. She ran for Congress in 1964 and 1965, and was 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.

Hamer also 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 is engraved with 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 honoring woman of different racial backgrounds who have made contributions to the community. The second event is the annual 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 is being used to pay off the debt incurred by building the Civil Rights Foot Soldiers Memorial.

The MLK Jr. Committee has successfully placed three memorials to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Anne Arundel County funded by private donations. A bronze statue of King was erected at Anne Arundel Community College in 2006 after the Committee raised more than $250,000. In 2011, the Committee dedicated a plaque and garden tribute to Dr. King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, at Sojourner Douglass College in Edgewater, Md. and in 2013 erected a monument in Annapolis to the Civil Rights Foot Soldiers who marched in the famous 1963 “I have a dream” civil rights march on Washington.

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