|President of the National Council of Negro Women Greater Boston Section (NCNW) Carolyn Lassiter presented the winners at the 2010 Women of Courage and Conviction Awards Banquet. This event is NCNW’s largest annual fundraiser. More than 300 people are expected at this year’s event to pay tribute to the seven women who will be honored as Women of Courage and Conviction. (Photo courtesy of NCNWGBS)
The Greater Boston Section of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) will hold their 19th annual Women of Courage & Conviction Awards Banquet at Montvale Plaza in Stoneham this Saturday, March 26.
During the evening they will hold a silent auction and provide entertainment, including a keynote speaker. The highlight of the banquet will be celebrating seven of New England’s greatest community leaders. Each will be awarded the honor of “Woman of Courage and Conviction.”
“It’s a huge honor; it’s an unexpected honor,” said awardee Roseanna Means, M.D. “It’s a little daunting because I can identify myself with the conviction part, but the courage part — the lessons in courage that I’ve had in my life have come from the women that I’ve served.”
Means will be honored for her work as the president and founder of Women of Means (WOM), a nonprofit organization that she runs in her free time away from her practice at Brigham and Women’s hospital. WOM provides no cost, on-the-spot, paperwork-free health care to women and children in shelters.
Her team of 17 nurses travels around Boston prepared to help any way they can. They might help a particular woman with a breathing issue; give her instruction on dealing with pain; or simply write her a prescription then and there. They work hard to make sure all of their patients are comfortable so that when they return to the streets at night, they have a greater chance of survival.
Despite overcoming her own obstacles, including cancer, losing a child and a divorce, it isn’t her experiences that give her strength, she says. But rather “nurturing people is what nurtures me,” she says.
“I sort of feel like, women, you know we boost each other up,” Means went on. “I think of myself in a family of women, all sisters of the universe. When I’m down they lift me up; when they’re down I lift them up. I try to do my best to keep people going when they’re not feeling so good or at least give them something to hold on to.”
The Woman of Courage and Conviction is the “highest honor we give out,” said President of The Greater Boston Section NCNW Carolyn Lassiter. “We try to go beyond their employment, because we get paid to do a job but we don’t get paid to make a difference in the community we are serving.”
She said all of the evening’s awardees are truly outstanding women. Also to be awarded is the Liberating Vision Award, Promise and Visionary Award, honoring a younger resident of Boston with a bright future and the President’s Award, which honors a member of NCNW who serves the organization “tirelessly and without reservation.”
The awards seek to honor women who upheld the spirit and vision of Council member Dorothy Height (1912-2010), and her mentor, NCNW founder Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955). McLeod was an American educator and civil rights leader who worked as an advisor to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She sought to create a council made up of all women’s organizations that might lead the country with “unity of purpose and a unity of action.”
Height is best known as a women’s rights and civil rights activist, but she also served as president of NCNW for 40 years.
The event’s theme “Holding on to the Legacy,” honors the memory of Height who passed away last spring.
“If they take the work of the awardees,” said Woman of Courage and Conviction awardee Jeannette Boone, “and measure them around the kind of things that Dorothy Height stands for, I am very, very honored.”
Boone, 76, a resident of the South End spends 40 hours each week looking after her neighborhood and bringing its residents up.
Twenty years ago she helped form a neighborhood association to deal with the problems of prostitution, which led to the development of the Four Corners Community Development Corporation, of which she is both founder and president. That led to the creation of a number of community programs as well as the building of affordable housing at Langham Court, which includes a community center and acts as a home-base for many of Boone’s programs.
“I volunteer as a clergy and church lady coordinator for Operation Homefront,” she said. “I visit children in their homes every Thursday night … many of them are failing, sometimes there are gang issues; sometimes there are bullying issues. We go in and visit with the parent and sometimes with the child, and try to help young people to make better choices for their life. If they need tutors, we find tutors for them; if they need mentors, we find mentors for them.”
And that is only one of her mentoring projects. She also runs an after-school Homework Club out of the community center in Lanham Courts, and an institute for mediation, peace-building and conflict-transformation training.
“We’ve trained roughly 20 community leaders,” she said, “in addition to that, 25 youth offenders through a program at the South End neighborhood action program — and they’re certified as mediators with peace-building skills.”
Boone is also developing another mentoring program where youth will mentor their peers and help them make positive choices in order to “quell the violence in our neighborhoods,” she said.
She feels that she is in a position to influence youth positively by spending time and giving them the support to lead a non-violent life. She said, “It’s very worthwhile when you know that a kid gets it and you can see it, and you can feel it.”
Also to be honored with the Woman of Courage and Conviction Award are: Carmen Fields, 25-year veteran of Boston’s journalism community; Tomeeka J. Farrington, owner of Spotlight Communications dubbed “Boston’s Public Relations Princess” by The Boston Herald; Dr. Helen Giles-Gee, president of Keene State College in Keene, N.H.; Catherine French James, Ed.D., an educator with 48 years of experience in the Boston Public Schools and Linda R. McKenzie, of McKenzie & Associates, P.C., who has traveled to Haiti, Africa and other underdeveloped countries on various goodwill missions.
In addition to the awards, the event will feature a silent auction, keynote speaker Dr. Susan Winham-Bannister, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. She will tie in the mission of Greater Boston Section NCNW, and one of their many community programs: Science Club for Girls, which gives girls K-12 an opportunity to develop an interest and hobby in the sciences.
The reception will be at Montvale Plaza in Stoneham; tickets are $60, which include a sit-down dinner and live entertainment.
To purchase tickets online, visit www.ncnwgbs.org or call 781-820-7614.
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