Asheville celebrates diversity at the Unsung Hero Awards

The drum and dance troupe Project Negus performs. Photo by Leslie Boyd

The inaugural Unsung Hero Awards ceremony took nearly a year to plan, according to Rasheeda McDaniels of the Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services, one of three sponsors. The others were UNC Asheville and Date My City.

“It was worth every minute,” McDaniels said as the nearly three-hour program ended Sunday evening.

The event was developed to honor people whose efforts help others, mostly in the African-American and Latin communities in Buncombe County. It was the final event in the three-day African-Americans in Western North Carolina Conference. The program was presented, in English by Miss Asheville 2016, Kahlani Jackson, and in Spanish by Alejandro Padron.

The event, which included music and dance by local artists, was attended by more than 200 people.

Elder John Hayes receives one of two Community Legacy Awards. Photo by Leslie Boyd
Elder John Hayes receives one of two Community Legacy Awards. Photo by Leslie Boyd

The biggest honors – the Community Legacy Awards – went to Elder John Hayes, longtime president of the Asheville chapter of the NAACP, advocate for children and youth in the Hillcrest community and a founder of WRES radio. And to Lucia Hinojosa Hernandez, founder of the RAICES program in the Emma community. She has filled the role of mother and grandmother to many whose families were split from their elders by migration to the United States.

“We both have much in common,” Hayes said in accepting the award. “Our communities have much in common, and we need to sit down at the same table. I’m sure we would see that we are truly in the same boat.”

The awards aim to recognize small organizations and individuals that don’t get funding from government or from foundations that larger nonprofits and agencies get.

“These people and organizations are undercapitalized and we’re hoping the recognition will get them the attention they need to get more funding and continue their good work in the community,” McDaniels said.

Children from a dance troupe at RAICES in Emma perform at the Unsung Heroes Awards. Photo by Leslie Boyd
Children from a dance troupe at RAICES in Emma perform at the Unsung Heroes Awards. Photo by Leslie Boyd
Hip-hop artist GPE Kade performs with his son, Kendrick. Photo by Leslie Boyd
Hip-hop artist GPE Kade performs with his son, Kendrick. Photo by Leslie Boyd

The effort is funded by the Health Federation of Philadelphia through their Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities Grant, a $300,000 grant distributed over two years to help small organizations and individuals get on their feet.

Historian Priscilla Ndiaye accepts her Unsung Heroes Award. Photo by Leslie Boyd
Historian Priscilla Ndiaye accepts her Unsung Heroes Award. Photo by Leslie Boyd

Among the recipients was Priscilla Ndiaye, a historian who has researched the effects of urban renewal in Asheville. Ndiaye interviewed community elders whose property was taken and came to realize how harmful the effort had been to the community it was supposed to bolster.

“There was no conversation with the people this affected,” she said. “People were so in touch with building the city that they forgot about the people in the community.”

Dancer Jennifer Bronson performs during the Unsung Heroes Awards ceremony. Photo by Leslie Boyd
Dancer Jennifer Bronson performs during the Unsung Heroes Awards ceremony. Photo by Leslie Boyd

Another recipient was the Dulce Lomita Mobile Home Cooperative, a group of people who own and govern their mobile home park in the Emma community. Patricia Guerra spoke through a translator about how she had been abused at other mobile home parks by landlords who charged whatever they could get away with for water, who evicted people without cause. She finally feels safe from such abuses, she said.

Journalist and Asheville Blade founder David Forbes also received an award and spoke about the need for more diversity in the news media.

“When I speak to my colleagues in the media now, in Asheville, in 2016, I am still speaking to a disproportionately white group,” Forbes said. “That must change.”

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6 thoughts on “Asheville celebrates diversity at the Unsung Hero Awards

  1. Deplorable Infidel

    Forbes should be asking ‘why is the media disproportionately white’ ? What are HIS reasons ? What causes minorities to avoid speaking truth to power ?

    • boatrocker

      Huh. Funny how when minorities or those who advocate for them do speak their truth to power, your multiple un-moderated sock puppet posts call them among other things, thugs, criminals by birth and raising for lack of family values, takers, welfare addicts and the victim is blamed.

      Which version of your lie shall we believe? I’m soooo confused for drinking the koolaid.

      • Snowflake (Social Justice Worrier)

        It wasn’t the kool aid, it was the red pill you swallowed.

    • Lulz

      Forbes and his ilk are sellouts. The agenda they push doesn’t directly affect them. And while Mexico’s economy grows at 6%, we are their welfare state. But of course Forbes won’t tell you that.

      Again, without generous handouts and subsidies from whites, Hillcrest wouldn’t exist. But the train of thought should focus on why is there a need for it to begin with. That blacks have allowed themselves to be corralled in such areas points towards just how dependent they’ve become on others. Instead of pushing them into self reliance, the 60’s counter cult has herded them into a disaster.

      • Lulz

        One last thought. Anything the baby boomer generation and their counter culture misfits has rallied against is simply and utterly brought the nation in chaos. Luckily for the rest of us though, their numbers are in decline. And they can’t disappear soon enough. It’ll take decades, if ever, to recover from it.

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