Chosen from across Anne Arundel County, six trailblazing women and one man will be honored during the 25th annual Fannie Lou Hamer Awards Reception in a free online ceremony.
Known for impacting their community through the courts, medical initiatives or community activism, each of these citizens has made a lasting mark on the Annapolis area.
The event, set for Tuesday, Oct. 6, is sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Anne Arundel County. Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) counts as 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 chooses six outstanding women each year from a list of nominees who live and/or work in Anne Arundel County. Anne Arundel remains the only jurisdiction in the State of Maryland to celebrate Hamer’s memory with awards of this nature.
This year’s honorees — Patricia Bradford, Octavia Brown, Emma Buchman, Joseph Donahue, C.J. Meushaw, Delegate Shaneka Henson and Toni Strong Pratt — join the ranks of more than 100 notable local citizens, including former Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Administrative Law Judge Tracey Warren Parker and former Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer. Other speakers included Reps. John P. Sarbanes and Anthony Brown, Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley and County Executive Steuart Pittman.
“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 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.”
Delegate Shaneka Henson, a native Annapolitan, has a history rooted in Maryland, specifically Anne Arundel County. She received her B.S. from Coppin State University and J.D. from University of Maryland School of Law and has worked for the County States Attorney Office, YWCA and Maryland Office of Attorney General.
In her first term as alderwoman, she was appointed to the Maryland General Assembly after the tragic death of Speaker Michael Busch. As a community activist who has faced racism, sexism and countless negativity, she remains a fighter for civil rights.
“It’s a tremendous honor to be included among others from Annapolis who previously received this award named after Fannie Lou Hamer — a champion for voting and civil rights,” Henson said. “She was inspired because there were no Black candidates and soon after her leadership, the ballot would include Blacks as candidates for sheriff, clerk and county supervisor. And she spearheaded the crusade so that Black votes would be counted.”
“We all owe her a debt of gratitude. I owe her my gratitude as well in my stead as the first Black woman to represent District 30A. I remain committed to keeping Fannie Lou Hamer’s legacy alive,” Henson added.
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 women of different racial backgrounds who have made contributions to the community, state and nation; and 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.
To view the event, go to www.mlkjrmd.org/flh25. The link will be live through Oct. 30.