Dominion Resources and the Library of Virginia Honor ‘Strong Men & Women’
Courtesy of Dominion ResourcesDominion Resources and the Library of Virginia commemorated the leadership and accomplishments of eight outstanding African Americans during the fourth annual “Strong Men & Women in Virginia History” awards program on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, at the Richmond Marriott. The program honors prominent African Americans, past and present, who have made significant contributions to the commonwealth.
“It is always an honor to celebrate the accomplishments of these extraordinary individuals during Black History Month,” said Daniel A. Weekley, vice president of Corporate Affairs-Dominion. “Be it through government, education, activism, sports or the arts, these men and women have helped shape and improve our communities while enriching the lives of many.” Dominion Resources is the parent company of Dominion Virginia Power and sponsor of the annual series.
“Each year, the men and women honored through the Strong Men and Women program bear witness to the amazing accomplishments and contributions of African American Virginians throughout our history and up to the present day,” added Dr. Sandra G. Treadway, Librarian of Virginia.?”The Library of Virginia is proud to be a partner in this valuable program, which serves as an inspiration to us all.”
The following honorees were recognized:
- Melody C. Barnes?– former domestic policy advisor, President Barack Obama’s administration, Richmond
- Thomas Cannon, Sr.* – humanitarian and philanthropist, Richmond
- Clarence M. Dunnaville, Jr. – attorney and civil rights activist, Roanoke
- The Honorable Leroy R. Hassell, Sr.* – first African American chief justice, Virginia Supreme Court, Norfolk
- The Honorable Mamie E. Locke– first African American mayor, Hampton, Virginia senator and educator, Hampton
- Claude G. Perkins, Ph.D.– president, Virginia Union University, Richmond
- Michael Robinson– retired professional football player and youth mentor, Henrico
- Anne Bethel Spencer* – American poet and civil rights leader, Lynchburg
Four high school students also were recognized during the ceremony. Each wrote winning essays, selected from more than 200 entries, about the importance of helping others.? The winners of the 2016 “Strong Men & Women in Virginia?History”?student essay writing contest are:
- Samuel Adu-Gyamfi– Highland Springs High School, Henrico County
- Sohilia Elziny – Woodside High School, Newport News
- Savannah Frye– Westfield High School, Fairfax County
- Katy Richardson– Gate City High School, Scott County
Each student received an Apple iPad Air and $1,000 for their school. Urban Views Weekly is proud to feature the essay of each student winner.
Gate City High School
Once when we were on a family vacation, we stopped at a convenience store. Two little girls, poorly dressed, tried to buy some food but didn’t have enough money. My mother reached in her pocket and gave the clerk fifty cents. The girls’ face lit up when they realized a stranger cared. What are you doing with your pocket change? I want mine to make a difference!
This is why Thomas Cannon inspires me. He was a “working man’s philanthropist” who, over his lifetime, had only a modest income as a postal worker. He lost his father at a young age. His childhood home had no electricity or running water. Yet, his childhood financial needs nurtured sensitivity. His life experiences empowered him to give sacrificially. We can all benefit from the power of giving.
My older brother’s life was touched by an elderly man who created a college scholarship by picking up aluminum cans. This gentleman understood how little acts add up. So, I know that by simple acts like picking up aluminum cans or collecting pocket change I can make a difference. I am a teenager, but I can sponsor a scholarship. I can feed a homeless man or clothe an orphan. I can make people visible.
I have other deeply personal reasons for giving, too. There were times when I needed help and didn’t receive any. I needed a friend, but I was alone. I needed a relationship with my dad, but instead I felt isolated. The only person I felt who was there for me was my mom. Unfortunately, some people don’t even have that; they need someone like Thomas Cannon to encourage them and make them feel special. Cannon understood giving can also make people feel like their life is appreciated and their efforts applauded. Loud applause is needed in our world. I can give that applause, too, by giving sacrificially.
Overall, giving isn’t about a higher figure in a bank account. Giving is a calling, according to Thomas Cannon. It is about having a sacrificial spirit. This is why I have joined the U.S. Army Reserves as a high school senior. I know how important it to give sacrificially. Now, here is the real question. The question is not: How can I afford to give? Rather, I ask: How can I afford not to give? Today is my day to make a difference. Follow my lead!
Westfield High School
Helping people is something that comes effortlessly to me. If I had to come up with a list of why I help people, it would consist of these five things. I love knowing that I made someone’s day a little bit better. I believe that kindness is contagious. Thinking about helping people makes me smile. I know how it feels to feel helpless and down, and I don’t want anyone else to feel that way. And more importantly, I want to make a difference in the world, and helping people is my contribution to that cause.
One of my favorite things to do is work with kids, and I have done this by joining the Best Buddies club, which is working with handicapped kids, and taking the elective Peer Helping, which is when I go to elementary schools and have a buddy assigned to me. My cousin has severe autism, so I feel a personal connection with the kids in the Best Buddies program. I have the opportunity to work with these kids and when I see their faces light up, I just know that I am making a difference; even if it’s something little like helping them color or something big like helping them with personal issues. I like to believe I’m creating a positive impact.
One of the buddies I’ve been assigned to is named Isaiah and at first he didn’t talk, but now every time I pick him up from his classroom, he gets the biggest grin on his face and jumps up to hug me and won’t stop talking to me about his day and his family, and I couldn’t be happier.
I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for the last four years so I know what it’s like to feel helpless. If I can be a confidant or lend a helping hand to anyone so that they don’t have to feel that despair, I know I have accomplished an incredible feat. By helping someone and showing compassion toward them, it has a lasting effect on that person and will create a domino effect, causing them to show that same compassion to another person and so on.
I believe Thomas Cannon would have agreed with my list because not only do I help people, but I continue to pass along my compassion for helping others through my actions, which Thomas Cannon’s legacy has done well.
Woodside High School
I have always been the person who helped no matter what. Sometimes I got taken advantage of, but I’ve learned so much throughout the years. I’ve never thought about why I help others, it just comes naturally, but now that I think about it, I help others for two reasons: to help people not feel as I have, and to prove that I was here. Many times throughout my life, I felt unnoticed and unimportant and as if nobody cared about my well-being. I would do anything to make sure nobody feels like that. I know nobody deserves that and no matter who you are you deserve to feel like you belong and that someone cares about you.
I want it said that I lived each day to the fullest until I died. I want to leave my mark on the world, and I don’t want to be forgotten. I’ve loved many people and they have impacted me drastically. The simple things mean a lot. I can make a difference in somebody’s life and for someone to think about me and have a positive thought is all I ever want. I want to mean something in somebody’s life, make a difference, so when I’m gone I want to know I did my best and gave it all the positivity I had in me. I want to bring someone at least a sliver of happiness and make the world a little better, or at least the way someone views the world a little better. I don’t want to have any regrets, and I want to do everything to be able to have someone smile when they remember me; that’s my proof that I was here.
I do think Thomas Cannon would have agreed with my two reasons. He has definitely left a mark on our society but, more importantly, on the individuals who influence that society. He seemed like the kind of person who held self-respect and equality as a very high aspect of life. The amount of positivity surrounding his name is spontaneous; you can hear it when people say his name and all the positive words surrounding it. Cannon gave away what he had and sometimes didn’t have. I try to give away happiness while simultaneously trying to build my happiness off the happiness I give. People like Thomas Cannon are the glue to our society; they bring us together as one.
Samuel Nana Adu-Gyamfi
Highland Springs High School
Growing up, I came to understand that giving in itself was not what was important; it was the intent and the love behind giving that made the difference. One would not give until he is prompted or a burden is laid upon his heart to do so in the grand scheme of things. I find solace in the knowledge that there existed a man like Thomas Cannon and that there are others like him out there.
The first reason on my list for giving would be, “The beauty of compassion does not just lie in the deeds of a man but the potential to birth happiness and contentment.” The reason I would have this on the top of the list is because I find the human nature of compassion to be most intriguing. I find it amazing that one would give part of his possessions to another person, who would then do unto others as someone had done for him or her. And even as we seek, we should be able to give because it speaks unto one’s values and character.
I strongly believe that Thomas Cannon would agree with me because fresh leaves do not grow on their own; they are nourished by autumn leaves and fertile soil. That is one of the twelve undeniable truths of our very existence. People have sacrificed too much for us to do so little in our everyday lives. Another reason I would like to add is, “If you give with the right mindset, you give the happiness unto yourself.”
Being of African descent, I grew up in a Third World environment. Life was a daily struggle, and I watched my parents toil every day to provide for me and my siblings. We could barely make ends meet and this made me start stealing. Instead of giving, I began to take things that did not belong to me. Even in the midst of my actions, the people I stole from still showed me love and sympathy. They would often say that all I needed to do was ask and they would give to me.
As I grew older, I realized that the motivation for giving transcends human understanding. I began to not just give but also to show love to others. After all, if we don’t, who will? To be able to freely give is one of the greatest gifts a person can have.