Aug. 4—VALDOSTA — When Dr. Valerie Ford saw that certain community figures hadn't been recognized for their work, she and the rest of the Valdosta Black Heritage Group board decided to take it upon themselves.
The group hosted its Second Annual Meet and Greet Community Reception Saturday, honoring "Keepers of the Word" — "leaders who work to preserve African-American heritage through their dedication to the community."
Gwen Sommers Redwine, a Heritage Group board member, said each guest of honor was awarded with a Valdosta Black Heritage Group plaque and mug.
Ford had personal anecdotes about some of the honorees: — Laverne Richardson, retired librarian, 43 years.
"She went over and above being a librarian. She was at the Hudson Dockett Library, the only library negro children could go to during segregation. Mrs Richardson would always let the children pick out five books they wanted them to read. You had to tell her about what you read and she would ask them questions. It was great for reading comprehension." — LaRue Stephens, retired librarian, 30 years.
"If she wasn't sure about what the families were doing for the children, she would go to their houses to meet the parents and find out what was going on and would try to help them out as much as possible." — Dr. Amanda Brown, retired educator, historian.
"Her area was altogether different. She worked at the University of Georgia but she lived in Valdosta and never missed an opportunity to educate someone about their history." — Dr. Beverley Blake, president, Southside Library Boosters.
"My mother, Evelyn Ford, was one of the founders of the Southside Library Boosters. Her (Blake) and the ladies with the Southside Library Boosters were able to raise so much money for that library. That library ended up having more resources than the Woodrow Wilson Library. They raised money for computers, desks, tables and books. The Woodrow Wilson one was much larger but the Southside had more resources thanks to them."
Redwine also shared reasons why the rest of the honorees were awarded: — Deborah S. Davis, certified archivist, Valdosta State University. Honored for her work at preserving history, especially with the artwork for Mary Turner, a victim of a series of South Georgia lynchings a century ago. — Winona P. Walker, retired educator. Honored for her patent for the VACK reading program designed to help students develop strong reading skills. — Brittanye Blake, journalist, The Valdosta Daily Times. Honored for excellence in reporting as well as monetizing her writing through her business.
Ford said she was glad the VBHG was able to give the women a platform to inform the public of the work they've done throughout their careers.
"I ended up calling them our 'unsung sheroes' because they are ladies that just have not been recognized in our community; they've all done so much. They're historians, activists, journalists and librarians that have always been available to children and adults," she said.
"When we (the board) talked about it, I said 'You know, none of them have been recognized and they've done so much and have always been there for us.' That's why it meant a lot to me."
The next VBHG meeting will take place on Aug. 22.