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“Nationals October 2019

Seven to be honored at the 25th Annual Fannie Lou Hamer Awards Reception

| September 29, 2020, 06:54 PM

Chosen from across Anne Arundel County, six trailblazing women and one man will be honored during the 25th annual Fannie Lou Hamer Awards Reception, to be held at 6 pm. Tuesday, Oct. 6, in a free on-line ceremony. Known for impacting their community—whether through the courts, medical initiatives or community activism, each of these citizens has made a lasting mark on the Annapolis area. All of this year’s honorees— Patricia Bradford, Octavia Brown, Emma Buchanan, Joseph Donahue, C.J. Meushaw, Delegate Shaneka Henson and Toni Strong Pratt—join the ranks of more than 100 notable local citizens, including Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Administrative Law Judge Tracey Warren Parker, and former Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer. Other speakers will include Congressmen John P. Sarbanes and Anthony Brown, Mayor Gavin Buckley and County Executive Steuart Pittman. The event is sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Anne Arundel County. Tickets are free from  More information at 443-871-5656.

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Joe Donahue, will receive the Allen Hillard Legum Civil Rights Award for his campaign that resulted in the City of Annapolis settled a near-$1-million-dollar lawsuit with 15 public housing families who were the victims of decades of racial discrimination by the city and the Annapolis housing authority. Venus Bradford of Annapolis has worked for the Annapolis Housing Authority for over 40 years. and has educated many landlords about the benefits of Section 8 housing programs for themselves and their potential tenants. The ceremony will include musical selections including a Hamer favorite, This Little Light of Mine.

“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 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.”

Fannie Lou Hamer, 1917-1977, was an American voting rights activist, civil rights leader, and philanthropist. The awards that bear her name recognize local 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.

Venus Bradford of Annapolis is the Family Self-Sufficiency & Homeownership Manger, for the Housing Authority, City of Annapolis. She began her career with the Annapolis Housing Authority in 1977, where she held various positions. Her most impactful position to the community, has been Director of the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. Bradford was very instrumental in removing barriers and stigmas related to Section 8 and public housing tenants by reaching out to landlords and hosting landlord workshops to encourage new landlords to register their property and come on board as participants. During the HUD budget cuts, she helped to foster strategies and partnerships with the Housing Commission of Anne Arundel County so that no Housing Choice Voucher participant lost their voucher and retained their homes. She currently manages 83 families and households through the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) and Homeownership Program to promote and assist families to become self-sufficient and homeowners.

Octavia Brown of Annapolis is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker-Certified (LCSW-C) and the founder and lead clinician of the Urban Institute for Mental Health. Brown specializes in racial trauma therapy, trauma-informed care, cognitive behavioral therapy, and behavioral modification. She received her MSW from the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Social Work in 2015 but has served in the urban community for over 10 years.

Brown is specifically trained in working in urban communities and has extensive experience working in racial trauma, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and child welfare. Brown also serves the community as a political social worker, working to advocate for urban communities, eliminate social issues which greatly impact the populations, and implement new and progressive policies which aid in the fight to dismantle systemic racism and discrimination. In June 2020, Mrs. Brown created a Black Health & Wellness Guide of health and wellness providers in Anne Arundel County. Brown also trains clinicians, educators, and social workers on how to effectively work with urban and Black populations, and help organizations establish a culturally competent, safe, and antiracist environment for their employees and clients.

Emma Buchman is the deputy director of March On Maryland, a member of Connecting The Dots, and a huge asset to Community Actively Seeking Transparency (CAST.) She is a community activist and an unapologetic anti-racist. Emma has always been at the forefront of serving in any capacity required, and she has pushed herself to the point of personal exhaustion on behalf of our community. Buchman organized myriad marches and events for racial justice, civic engagement, women’s rights, and vigils for those we’ve lost. She travels between office locations across the state of Maryland. Buchman hosts, moderates, or facilitates meetings for multiple organizations, including the Caucus of African American leaders, CAST, March On Foundation and Showing Up For Racial Justice. She is a multifaceted community and civil rights activist. Her support comes with a passion for not only her neighbors in this country, but also those around the world. She has served under a member of the UK Parliament, and she has been heavily involved in both local and state politics.

Joseph Donahue is a lawyer in private practice in Annapolis.  He grew up in Annapolis and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2004 and later became a lawyer. He filed a 111-page lawsuit against the City of Annapolis and the Housing Authority of Annapolis on behalf of his 15 clients who live in subsidized housing in the city. “Why is the city trying to come up with reasons not to inspect its citizens’ apartments?” Donahue said. “They pay rent, they work, and their landlord doesn’t maintain their properties.” Donahue won his case in September 2020 against the city and the plaintiffs were awarded $900,000.

Delegate Shaneka Henson is a native Annapolitan, who has a history rooted in Maryland, specifically Anne Arundel County. Delegate Henson received her B.S. from Coppin State University and J.D. from University of Maryland School of Law and admitted to the Maryland Bar in 2010. Delegate Henson has worked for Anne Arundel County States Attorney Office, Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), and Maryland Office of Attorney General. Delegate Henson is a strong advocate, leader, mentor, and activist who is truly dedicated to working for her constituents. Her first term as Alderwoman she was appointed to the Maryland General Assembly after the tragic loss of Speaker Michael Busch. As a community activist, she has faced racism, sexism, and countless negativity, and never backed down. She is a true fighter for “Civil Rights”.

Carolyn Jane Meushaw “CJ” is an activist and dedicated member of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a national network of groups and individuals working to undermine white supremacy and to work for racial justice. CJ has been a core organizer in the SURJ chapter in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, where she workers tirelessly encouraging other white people to live out the SURJ values of Calling People In, Not OUT; Accountability Through Collective Action; Take Risks, Make Mistakes; Learn and Keep Going; Organize Out of Mutual Interest; There is Enough for All; Growing is Good; and Center Class. CJ has helped many white people to help realize that racial justice is core to our liberation. CJ has clutched the meaning of “social revolution” and committed to it, she is actively involved in the fight against racism and feels her life depends on it. CJ serves as the Co-Chair of the Economic Empowerment Committee for the Anne Arundel County Branch of the NAACP, where her devoted efforts has made a tremendous impact throughout the county.

Toni Strong-Pratt of Annapolis co-founded “Desire” a social group which focuses on drug dependencies and co-dependencies within the city of Annapolis.  Strong-Pratt serves on the Nap Town Anti-Dope Movement (NAM) where she helps educate and remove stigma about substance use disorder in undeserved communities in Annapolis. She is a graduate of Leadership Anne Arundel (LAA) and Neighborhood Leadership Academy (NLA). Strong-Pratt has dedicated her life and time to help the underserved and those in need. Her passion lead her to develop People Builders Consulting, and she serves as organizer of Anne Arundel Connecting Together (ACT). She has been critical in organizing food giveaways and distributing Harm Reduction materials throughout Annapolis Communities during COVID, as well as a volunteer Narcan trainer with the Anne Arundel County Health Department.

Fannie Lou Hamer was 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, 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, state and nation.  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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