Chosen from across Anne Arundel County, nine trailblazing women will be honored during the 28th annual Fannie Lou Hamer Awards Reception, held from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1, at St. Phillips Episcopal Church in Annapolis, Md. Many from this year’s group of honorees continue legacies begun by, or in honor of, their families. Known for impacting their community — whether through social justice or advocacy — each woman has made a lasting mark on Anne Arundel County. This year’s honorees — Courtney Buiniskis, Delores M. Bullock, Renee Cantori, Betsy L. Harris-Dotson, Everdean P. Holloway, Bridget E. Hutchins, Lamiya Kirby, Adriana Lee, and Renee Mutchnik — 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, who were nominated in years past.
Carl Snowden, chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, will serve as master of ceremonies. A full dinner will follow the program. Tickets are $50. The event is sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Anne Arundel County. For more information call 301.538.6353 or e-mail [email protected]. Purchase tickets online at https://mlkmdflh28.eventbrite.com.
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 fields while working diligently to improve civil and human rights in the region. This year’s audience will hear about the legacies these women are creating or carrying on, including immigration work by Renee Cantori, the daughter of a Jewish refugee, and Everdean P. Holloway, who helped reclaim a slice of Black Maryland history.
“We congratulate all of the recipients of the Fannie Lou Hamer Awards, whose commitment to social justice is seen in the work that they do daily,” said Snowden. “These women run the gamut. They are educators, activists, immigrants, and they are committed to making Anne Arundel County a better place for everyone.”
Courtney Buiniskis, of Shady Side, is an educator, union organizer, community organizer, former candidate for Delegate of 30B, and the vice chair of the Anne Arundel Democratic Central Committee. She currently serves as Community Engagement Officer for the County Executive of Anne Arundel County. Buiniskis advocates for residents in southern Anne Arundel County, where she works to improve communities, the environment, constituent services, voting rights, and food insecurity.
In 1992, Delores M. Bullock, of Annapolis partnered with her husband to create Blessed in Tech Ministries, Inc. The organization supports clients through the Department of Social Services and the Community Resource Center in Annapolis, providing case management, computer training, housing assistance, utility assistance, rental assistance, and meal services. Bullock’s programs have partnered with Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation; Anne Arundel County Community Action Agency; the City of Annapolis, Office of Emergency Management; Anne Arundel Partnership for Children, Youth and Families; Anne Arundel Department of Health, and more. As Executive Director, Bullock served as board member for 10 years, co-chaired the Homeless Coalition Board, and served on the Light House Shelter board. Today, she is an officer for the Anne Arundel Food Bank Member Agency Advisory Committee. Under Bullock’s leadership, Blessed in Tech Ministries was granted several community grants, COVID Response Funds, Tornado Relief Fund, and other support during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Renee Cantori, of Pasadena, is the daughter of a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. Among her extensive volunteer portfolio, for the last six years, Cantori has been assisting families petitioning for asylum through the Annapolis Immigration Justice Network. She was a lead organizer for Anne Arundel County’s ‘End White Silence’ protest and has supported many other anti-racist protests. A #TeachTruth proponent, Cantori has led Connecting the Dots’ Anne Arundel County (CTDAACO) advocacy for an inclusive curriculum and increased transparency to combat hate and bias incidents against people of color and LGBTQ+ students. She was active on the Citizens Advisory Committee hate/bias subcommittee, and regularly meets with Anne Arundel County Public Schools officials on matters of equitable education. Through CTDAACO, Cantori coordinated the installations of Anne Arundel County’s Lynching Memorials, collaborating with the Equal Justice Initiative, City and County officials, and the Anne Arundel County Public Library.
Betsy L. Harris-Dotson, of Severna Park, has supported numerous local organizations, including the Anne Arundel County Branch of the NAACP; the Harris Family Foundation Inc., formerly the Jet Set Social Club; and several local organizations. She has received numerous awards for her support. Harris-Dotson supports the local homeless community through her talented crochet work, providing blankets, hats, scarves, and gloves to those in need during the winter. For the past 50 years, she has supported ministries at her church, Mt. Zion UMC-Magothy, where she served as the financial secretary for 40 years and as the communion steward for over 30 years.
Everdean P. Holloway, of Odenton, works with the Anne Arundel Historical Society. Her work researching facts and documentation helped to establish Wilsontown, currently known as Odenton, Md., as a Black historical community. The Historical Society, under the leadership of Wiley and Donna Donaldson, was able to secure signage conveying Wilsontown as an established community. Holloway worked to bring the landmark into fruition and secured a legacy not only for the Wilson family, for which the town was named, but for other families residing in the community. Holloway is part of the Wilson family lineage: She has three uncles who received seven acres of land that established their homestead in Wilsontown.
Bridget E. Hutchins, of Dunkirk (Anne Arundel section), applies her background working in FEMA to support those in need. During Hutchins’ time with FEMA, she assisted victims of hurricane disasters. She also served as the Records Liaison Officer for the agency, providing records management training in 10 regions across the United States, including Puerto Rico. Hutchins is a member of the NAACP Anne Arundel County Branch and supports Martin Luther King Jr. Committee events. She spends much of her time volunteering to support local seniors and children.
Lamiya Kirby, of Annapolis, is the owner of Joyce Essentials Beauty Supply, a special beauty supply store that provides haircare and skincare products, as well as supplies and equipment for licensed professionals in the beauty industry. Kirby found her passion for supporting young women in need with cosmetics, helping to boost their esteem. She obtained her cosmetology license specializing in natural haircare services, which she uses to provide free haircare services to those in need. Kirby has made it her mission to support young people by providing free cosmetic services and products to adoptive and foster families in Anne Arundel County. She also provides free services and products to elementary school students in Anne Arundel County who receive free/reduced lunch.
Adriana Lee, of Annapolis, is a Mexican immigrant. For more than 25 years, she worked in information technology in Mexico and the United States supporting production, financial, and banking companies. In 2018, Lee began working for the Mayor’s Office for the City of Annapolis as a Hispanic community specialist. Today, she serves as manager for the New American and Hispanic Community for the Maryland Comptroller’s Office. She works with different agencies and organizations to find solutions needs within local disadvantaged communities. Lee has participated in the creation of several programs such as Spanish adult literacy, Hispanic business workshops, and events such as the Day of the Dead and Festival of Flowers.
Renee Mutchnik, of Owings Mills, is a veteran in the public relations, marketing, and corporate communication sectors, with long-formed ties to Anne Arundel County business communities dating back 30 years. Mutchnik joined Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland in 2021 and today serves as the Director of PR and Communication. Through her work at Live!, Mutchnik has helped oversee the company’s extensive community service efforts. With Mutchnik’s oversight, Live! has made significant contributions to the Anne Arundel County Food Bank, including contributing more than $15,000 in sponsorship money and prepared food to its signature fundraising event, Feeding Hope. Live! also partners with many other local nonprofit organizations, including Leadership Anne Arundel, Maryland Washington Minority Companies Association, The Y of Central Maryland, Sarah’s House, and Anne Arundel CASA.
A committee of community residents chooses outstanding women each year from a list of nominees who live and/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 our 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 worldwide as people come together to bring about peaceful change.”
Fannie Lou Hamer was the youngest of 20 children born to Mississippi sharecropper parents. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. She 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.
Hamer’s 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 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. She 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 first is 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 were used to underwrite the memorials below and others in progress.The MLK Jr. Committee has successfully placed five memorials to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and in honor of civil and human rights activists in Anne Arundel County, funded by private donations. A bronze statue of King was erected at the 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. In 2013, the Committee 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. In 2021, the Committee was the lead sponsor for the “Guardians of the First Amendment” memorial that honors the five lives lost at The Capital newspaper during a 2018 mass shooting that was the largest killing of journalists in U.S. history. In 2023 the Committee led the effort to have a county building renamed for Sarah E. Carter, who made history in 1974 when she was the first African American elected to serve on the Anne Arundel County Council.