Honoring six who `lift the community'

Hamer awards to be given out tonight

October 25, 2006|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to The Sun

Marquenta Taylor used to tease the varsity football coach at Meade High School, asking him where all the female fans were.

The school's guidance counselor and an avid sports fan, Taylor is more than just a spectator this year. She's coach of the junior varsity football team and the first female football coach in Anne Arundel County.

The 33-year-old Odenton woman's no-nonsense attitude and volunteer work for Happy Helpers for the Homeless have made her one of six women to be honored tonight at the 11th annual Fannie Lou Hamer Awards.

They're named for a Mississippi sharecropper who won national acclaim when she spoke before the Democratic National Convention in 1964 about being beaten and jailed for trying to register to vote. Hamer's speech crystallized the need for the Voting Rights Act and was instrumental in its winning final passage in 1965.

The civil rights activist, who would have turned 89 Oct. 6, does not have any connections to Anne Arundel County, but event organizers were looking for a way to recognize unsung heroes in the community, said Carl Snowden, president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Committee, which selected the honorees.

"We looked at that fact that many women do all kinds of things," Snowden said. "This award symbolizes an important trait to lift up the community."

This year's other honorees are Eudes Carrillo, District Court Judge Danielle Mosley, Tonia Jones Powell, County Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk and Barbara Silesky.

Nearly 300 people, including previous recipients and state and local lawmakers, attend the awards ceremony every year, Snowden said. The event is normally held closer to Hamer's birthday, but organizers needed more time to prepare this year because they were involved with preparations for the unveiling of the King memorial Aug. 27 at Anne Arundel Community College, Snowden said.

Proceeds from the Hamer dinner will help pay the remaining $150,000 debt for the $400,000 memorial.

Silesky, a King committee member, will be honored for her role in helping to raise money for the memorial. A resident of Woodmore in Baltimore County, she retired from Baltimore City government after 32 years in the Office of Occupational Medicine and Safety. She works at the Community Action Partnership and is a business major at Anne Arundel Community College.

Samorajczyk, 60, of Annapolis Roads, was nominated for her contributions to the protection of the environment in the county.

As a two-term county councilwoman, she helped draft legislation to protect Maryland bogs and require septic systems to have new technology to prevent nitrogen from leeching into the soil and fostering algae growth in the Chesapeake Bay. Samorajczyk is running to become a state delegate in District 30. She said she truly realized Hamer's contributions when she saw a one-woman play about her life at last year's awards dinner.

"What she really shows is that one person can make a difference," Samorajczyk said. "I think that should inspire all of us to persevere."

Mosley, 38, of Annapolis, became the first black female judge in county District Court when the governor appointed her in December. Being first is not particularly important to Mosley. The former criminal prosecutor said it is more meaningful that she help people either as a judge or as a volunteer.

"I would like one person to say, `Man, she really made a difference in my life,'" said Mosley, a former assistant state's attorney in Anne Arundel County. "That's important to me."

Mosley also serves on the boards of the Youth Outreach Foundation and Scholarship for Scholars Inc., among other organizations.

Carrillo, 39, of Annapolis, set up a bilingual driver's education program for Spanish-speaking students at Anne Arundel County schools. As the bilingual parent outreach liaison for Annapolis High School, Carrillo serves as the contact between the school and the growing Latino community in the Annapolis area.

The Puerto Rican native also instituted a program to collect donations of clothing and school supplies for families of students in the English Speakers of Other Languages program. She arranged for another student to receive eye surgery at the Stanton Community Center's Street Clinic of Annapolis.

Powell, 42, of Edgewater, became the first black woman appointed as staff counsel in the Office of Legal Counsel for the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002. She has practiced law in state and federal courts for 16 years. Powell mentors teenage girls as chairwoman of the Dr. Betty Shabazz Delta Academy for the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Taylor has volunteered for Happy Helpers for at least three years, helping to give out blankets, toiletries and food to the homeless in Baltimore, said Bobbi Coffman, who runs the program and is a teaching assistant at Meade High School.

Taylor, who played football on an all-female team years ago, said coaching a bunch of boys is no problem. After all, she's been coaching for five years in the guidance office.

"I'm very hard on my students academically, how they present themselves," Taylor said. She wants them to succeed on and off the field.

"There's nothing I wouldn't do for them," she said.

The awards dinner begins at 7 p.m. at the Banneker-Douglass Museum, 84 Franklin St. in Annapolis. Tickets cost $25. For information, call 410-267-7723.

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