Luncheon features community leaders

Dr. Jon Sensbach describes what life was like in Salem for slaves before and after the abolishment of slavery in June 1865. (Photo by Tevin Stinson)

Luncheon features community leaders
June 23
05:30 2016

Juneteenth Luncheon honors two local women


Two outstanding community leaders were honored for their contributions to the city of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County last Thursday during the Juneteenth Luncheon held at the Old Salem Visitor Center.

LaRue P. Cunningham and Dr. Sharee T. Fowler were presented the St. Philip’s Cedric S. Rodney Unity Award.

The award was named after the Rev. Dr. Cedric Sydney Rodney, who served as pastor of St. Philips’ Moravian Church from 1968 to 1976 and 1984 to 2003. Rodney was considered a “bridge builder” who upheld the ethics of the Moravian Church. As pastor of one of the oldest black congregations in the United States, Rodney stressed the importance of community and cooperation, which helped shape the history of Winston-Salem and make this community a better place.

During the luncheon, held inside the James A. Gray Jr. Auditorium, Cunningham and Fowler received a handcrafted pottery plate and wooden stand created by artisans and craftsmen in Old Salem’s Trades Department. After receiving the prestigious award, Cunningham, a twice retired teacher, thanked Old Salem and others for honoring her.

“I am honored to be receiving this award here today,” she said. “This is a day I will never forget.”

Since retiring after 30 years of service to Granville, Davidson and Forsyth County Schools, Cunningham currently serves as a volunteer and mentor at Kimberly Park Elementary School.

She also finds time to support Little Dresses for Africa, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) Christian organization that provides relief to vulnerable children by making dresses out of pillow cases for children in Africa and beyond, who have limited to no clothing of their own. Since joining the organization, Cunningham has created more than 1,000 dresses.

“I can, and most positively will impact the world around me because I have not done my part until the whole is done,” Cunningham said.

The second recipient, Fowler, works with the United Way of Forsyth County and serves as the partnership director with Forsyth Promise, a collaborative network committed to supporting the success of every child from cradle to career. She also serves as an adjunct assistant professor of sociology at her alma mater, Salem College. After accepting her handcrafted plate, Fowler said she will continue to fight for social justice and equity.

“I have a personal mission to enrich the lives of the people in this community who need it most,” said Fowler. “I will continue on this path until that mission is complete.”

Following the presentation of the awards, University of Florida history professor Dr. Jon Sensbach delivered the keynote address. Sensbach teaches the graduate course on early America and has taught a graduate seminar on the Black Atlantic as well as undergraduate courses on the Atlantic slave trade. During his address, Sensbach discussed what life was like for slaves in Salem before and after slavery was ended in June 1865.

The Juneteenth Luncheon is held in partnership with Winston-Salem State University. Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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