Nine elders who have made contributions to the African-American community in Arlington will be honored at a Harambee ceremony on Saturday.
Harambee suggests the Kenyan tradition of "pulling together" through community development activities, according to Arlington County's Department of Parks and Recreation, which distributes the awards.
“I’m delighted but I’m not an ‘awards person,’” said one honoree, William Vollin, 81. “I didn’t do it for any awards, I try to be beneficial in the community.”
Vollin and the other honorees have all dedicated decades to community service, whether as educators, like Vollin, or in other capacities, such as advocates for the homeless, among others.
Vollin worked for Arlington Public Schools for 30 years as an educator, beginning his career in 1961 when his first job as a teacher brought him to the still-segregated Langston Elementary School. When schools became integrated, his students were transferred to Walter Reed Elementary School.
“What I found was that kids were kids even if they were different races,” Vollin said.
He later moved up to become principal at Glebe Elementary School in 1974, where he stayed until his retirement in 1991. But his work wasn't done: He's been working with Arlington County to recruit minorities for county staff positions ever since.
“The kind of things that I’ve tried to do is just try and be helpful and make a difference in terms of the minorities in the county and making sure that there is representative of the black community,” Vollin said.
Another honoree, Darnell Wise Lightbourn, 65, also worked for Arlington County Schools as a music teacher for 35 years.
Wise Lightbourn currently volunteers with the Opera Guild of Northern Virginia, a group which promotes Opera in the region and also nominated her for the Harambee honor. She also volunteers with Jack and Jill of America, a group that provides opportunities for youth to experience the arts.
“I believe that music is the nation's most effective means for fostering understanding,” Wise Lightbourne said. “I got involved in arts as a lifelong experience.”
The 2012 awards will be presented at 11 a.m. Saturday at Arlington’s Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy St.
Award winners include Vollin, Lightbourn, Eunice Brown Cobb, Roxie E. Johnson, Louise Hill McGregor, James (Doug) Pelham, Anita Saundra Green, Alfred O. Taylor, Jr. and Willie Jackson-Baker. Read the biographies of the winners here.