The 26th Annual Fannie Lou Hamer Awards will honor 12 women who live or work in Anne Arundel County for their leadership in civil and human rights.
Fannie Lou Hamer, 1917-1977, was an American voting rights activist, civil rights leader, and philanthropist. The awards in her name recognize women from various racial backgrounds who have excelled in their chosen field while working to improve civil and human rights in the region.
“These women exemplify the leadership Ms. Hamer brought to the Civil Rights movement,” said Carl Snowden, chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, in a statement. The awards are one of two events the Annapolis-based Martin Luther King Jr. Committee hosts each year in which the proceeds are used to pay off debt for the Civil Rights Foot Soldiers Memorial.
“Their commitment to the Anne Arundel County community is humbling, and we thank them for their service. We are thrilled to take this evening to honor and celebrate this champion for economic and social justice, and the women she inspired.”
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who was a 2009 Hamer honoree, said in a statement the world is fighting for change many levels right now, “from social unrest in our cities, to expansive international crises.”
“And while the news may seem grim, there is inspiration every day around the world as people come together to bring about peaceful change,” she said.
A reception honoring them will be held for the women from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3, at the historic Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis. While tickets are sold out, viewers can watch the program on Facebook Live through the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee Facebook Page, or through www.mlkjrmd.org.
Community residents chose the women from a pool of nominees who live or work in Anne Arundel County.
The 12 women being recognized are:
Debi Jasen, of Pasadena, has been addressing racism since she was a child, and has been involved in numerous anti-racism actions and organizations. Jasen is a founder of One Pasadena, a local community group that is working to address the culture of racism in the community.
Sarah Margaret Blaser, of Shady Side, is an educator and the founder of South County Is Kind. Blaser began her involvement in social justice organizations in 2017 and has since become an active member in Coming to the Table and Connecting the Dots.
Chanel Compton, of Baltimore, is the executive director of the Banneker-Douglass Museum and the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture.
Debora A. Darden, of Edgewood, serves as the Warden of the Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Md., the largest prison in Maryland. She’s the first African American woman to serve in the role.
Roxanne McGowan, of Glen Burnie, is the Deputy Program Integrationist/Outreach Coordinator for the Community Action Agency (CAA) of Anne Arundel County. McGowan also partnered with the State to host the first City of Annapolis Job Fair, playing a significant role in bringing workforce development services into the Stanton Community Center.
Rev. Marguerite R. Morris, of Odenton, has been an advocate for marginalized persons in Maryland for decades. Morris founded the Leah’s House Shelter, which assists local and international victims of abuse and human trafficking; For Kathy’s Sake Inc., which provides advocacy services to persons in crisis; and Community Actively Seeking Transparency, which facilitates police transparency and accountability.
Sonia Feldman, of Annapolis, was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and moved to the United States as a child. In 1984, she established Sonia Feldman Advertising Design in Annapolis. Feldman is an active members of the Annapolis community, giving her time to a number of civic and non-rofit organizations.
Del. Sandy Bartlett, of Maryland City, serves her community through her work in the Maryland House of Delegates, where she is chair of the Anne Arundel County Delegation and Deputy Majority Whip.
Gloria Dent, of Severn, culminated her 26-year military career as the first National Director for Veterans Employment and Initiatives for the U.S. AbilityOne Commission. Dent is also founder and chairwoman of iCommunity Connection Services, a Maryland non-profit focused on veterans, community resources, and credential apprenticeships.
Monica Lindsey (also called Ewura Ama Amaka), of Annapolis, is an active community member who, for more than 17 years, served as an educator for the public school system.
Nas I. Afi, of Annapolis, served as an organizational specialist at the National Education Association for the past 17 years, most recently working as a coordinator for the NEA Affirmative Action UniServ Intern Program for Ethnic-Minorities and Women.
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Darlene Washington, of West River, serves as the executive adviser of the National Delicados, previously serving as the organization’s national president. The organization provides scholarships to high school graduates, and financially supports the National Council of Negro Women, community health projects, the National Negro College Fund, the Parole Health Center and more.