Neighborhood group honors community leaders as it celebrates 25th anniversary

Neighborhood group honors community  leaders as it celebrates 25th anniversary
June 11
00:00 2015

In photo above: The Cleveland Avenue Transformation Team (CATT) received honors at the “We’ve Got Roots” celebration. (Submitted photo)

By Felecia Piggott-Long, Ph. D.
For The Chronicle

More than 150 residents, members, partners, stakeholders and supporters of Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods (NBN) gathered at the McNeil Banquet Hall in the Anderson Center of Winston-Salem State University on Saturday, June 6.

As Daryl Little and Friends Band provided background music, the audience observed video interviews honoring the following community leaders: The Rev. Dr. John Mendez, legacy leadership honoree; Linda Sutton, grassroots leadership honoree; Michael Clements for outstanding board leadership; and Cleveland Avenue Transformation Team (CATT) for emerging leadership.

The keynote speaker for the gathering was Hazel Mack, parent and founder of Carter G. Woodson School.

Organized in 1991, the NBN was on public display as the group honored community leaders during their fourth annual “We’ve Got Roots” celebration.
“At NBN, we meet people where they are, connecting with strategic allies for over 24 years. We have leveraged community partnerships across age, race, gender and economic gaps, and our roots connect with Salem College, Wake Forest University, and Winston-Salem State University,” said Cornelius Graves, board chairman. “These institutions provide us with student volunteers, fresh ideas, different perspectives, and a unique blend of grassroots advocacy.”
RaVonda Dalton-Rann, mistress of ceremonies, read the proclamation from the City of Winston-Salem designating the intersection of Broad Street and Pilot View Street downtown as NBN Way. This honorary street is marked near the Augsburg Community Center, where Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods has resided for the past four years.

In her speech, Mack focused on reminding the audience of some important characteristics of NBN members and supporters after 25 years of working together just in case the struggle “becomes mundane and tiring. Remember our community has value and worth.”

“Unlike those who take advantage of those who come to our community, you understand that out community has value. We can focus on a litany of the things we do not have. We can focus on the high unemployment rate or the food deserts, but we must understand there are other things you need to take inventory of that are positive,” Mack said.

“The love we have among each other was noticeable when I worked in eastern Carolina’s poor areas. … Also, we are a God-fearing people at heart. Thirdly, we are brave and courageous in the face of those who transgress against us. Courage! Courage! Courage!” Mack said.

“Remember money is not the arbiter of all things. As a teen in high school, I joined the Black Panther Party. We worked 24/7 in the community. We had no pay check . . .We started a free breakfast program. We had time, energy, so much more to offer. Think outside the box. If you are tied to the dollar, you will lose. … We are who we have been waiting for. … We must keep on resisting what the media says Resist! Resist! Resist! Never give up!” Mack said.
John Gladman, NBN board member, and Cindy Smith Gordineer, president and CEO of the United Way, assisted with the presentation of the 2015 Awards.

*Honoree Michael Clements served as the vice president for community investment at the Winston-Salem Foundation from 2007-2014. While serving in this capacity, he directed both the Scholarship and Grants Departments at the Foundation. Dalton-Rann described Clements as “one of the most courageous brothers I have ever met. He can join a group and become more than a part of it.” Clements gave much honor to those who helped to keep the NBN going for the past 25 years.

*The Rev. Dr. John Mendez was honored for his legacy of service.
“I am humbled and challenged by this award. I seldom think about what I do, I just do it. Going back to my teen years, my wife, Sarah, and I tried to make a difference, but this award is special to me because none compares when grassroots people recognize and honor you because throughout all these years, we have fought for people who did not deserve to be oppressed, or discriminated against, did not deserve to be treated like they did not matter,” Mendez said.

*Honoree Linda Sutton received the grassroots recognition, having been active in the community since the early 1970s as a union organizer and special voter registration commissioner.
“People say that I can always convince others to get involved. I continue to fight for the vote because I believe in democracy. I believe, like Lyndon B. Johnson, that the vote is a powerful thing!” Sutton said.

*The CATT members of the Cleveland Avenue Transformation Team received the award for emerging leadership. This group includes Donald Becoat, Kathy Carter, James Hayes, Quashima Keoner, Michael Long, Shakema Nash, Shannon Niivens, Kywon Roberts, DeMarco Slappy, Jermical Slappy, Robin Slappy, Keshi Wisley, Marquita Wisley, Renai Wisely, and Mattie Young. These residents from Cleveland Avenue Homes completed the NBN’s Neighbors in Action Leadership Development Program to make certain they were prepared to be actively engaged in the Choice Neighborhood Planning Initiative. They wanted to ensure their involvement in the planning process and create a new and inclusive neighborhood association

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