Women Honorees

Photo Credits: MLK Jr. Committee of Anne Arundel County

Annapolis— Chosen from across Anne Arundel County, 12 trailblazing women will be honored during the 26th Annual Fannie Lou Hamer Awards Reception, held from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, October 3, 2021 at the historic Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis, Maryland. Known for impacting their community— whether through social justice or advocacy— each woman has made a lasting mark on Anne Arundel County.

This year’s honorees— Nas I. Afi; Delegate J. Sandy Bartlett; Sarah Margaret Blaser; Chanel Compton; Debora A. Darden; Gloria Dent; Sonia Feldman; Debi Jasen; Monica Lindsey; Roxanne McGowan; Rev. Marguerite R. Morris; and Darlene Washington— join the ranks of more than 100 notable women, including former U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, Administrative Law Judge Tracey Warren Parker; and former Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer; who were nominated in years past. Fannie Lou Hamer, 1917-1977, was an American voting rights activist, civil rights leader, and philanthropist. The awards that bear her name recognize women from various racial backgrounds who, while not necessarily household names, have excelled in their chosen field while working diligently to improve civil and human rights in the region. In the spirit of Hamer, honoree Sonia Feldman works tirelessly to educate voters on matters of social justice through the political organization she founded, Action Annapolis. Honoree Sarah Margaret Blaser is recognized for her work in South County for South County Is Kind, which responds to local incidents of racism, as well as her efforts to organize the Maryland Black Lives Matter March. Honoree Chanel Compton is the CEO of Banneker- Douglass Museum, where she focuses on educating the Maryland community about African American history.

“These women exemplify the leadership Ms. Hamer brought to the Civil Rights movement,” said Carl Snowden, chair of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee. “Their commitment to the Anne Arundel County community is humbling, and we thank them for their service. We are thrilled to take this evening to honor and celebrate this champion for economic and social justice, and the women she inspired.” Congressman Anthony Brown will offer welcoming remarks. A reception with heavy hors d’oeuvres will follow the program. The event is sponsored by the Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of Anne Arundel County. Tickets are sold out, but viewers can watch the program on Facebook Live through the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee Facebook Page, or through www.mlkjrmd.org. For more information, call 301.538.6353 or 410.419.2208 or e-mail [email protected]

A committee of community residents choose outstanding women each year from a list of nominees who live and/or or work in Anne Arundel County. Anne Arundel is the only jurisdiction in the State of Maryland to celebrate Hamer’s memory with awards of this nature. “We are living right now in a world that is fighting for change on many levels, from social unrest in our cities, to expansive international crises,” said former Sen. Mikulski, a 2009 Hamer honoree. “And while the news may seem grim, there is inspiration every day around the world as people come together to bring about peaceful change.”

Fannie Lou Hamer was the youngest of 20 children born to Mississippi sharecropper parents. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi Freedom Summer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and later became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, attending the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, N.J., in that capacity. Hamer’s plainspoken manner and fervent belief in the Biblical righteousness of her cause gained her a reputation as an electrifying speaker. She ran for Congress in 1964 and 1965, and was seated as a member of Mississippi’s official delegation to the Democratic National Convention of 1968, where she was an  outspoken critic of the Vietnam War.

Hamer worked on other projects, including grassroots-level Head Start programs, the Freedom Farm Cooperative in Sunflower County, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign. Hamer died at the age of 57. Her tombstone is engraved with one of her famous quotes, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

The Annapolis-based Martin Luther King Jr. Committee Inc., founded in 1988, hosts two major events each year:
The first is the annual Fannie Lou Hamer Reception in October honoring woman of different racial backgrounds who have made contributions to the community. The second event is the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Dinner held in January to honor those local citizens whose leadership in civil rights has helped keep Dr. King’s legacy alive. The proceeds from these events are being used to pay off the debt incurred by building the Civil Rights Foot Soldiers Memorial.

The MLK Jr. Committee has successfully placed three memorials to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Anne Arundel County funded by private donations. A bronze statue of King was erected at the Anne Arundel Community College in 2006 after the Committee raised more than $250,000. In 2011, the Committee dedicated a plaque and garden tribute to Dr. King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, at Sojourner Douglass College in Edgewater, Md. In 2013, the Committee erected a monument in Annapolis to the Civil Rights Foot Soldiers who marched in the famous 1963 “I have a dream” civil rights march on Washington.