Metro

Community activists honored at annual ceremony

Community organizer, librarian inducted into Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hall of Fame

By
Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The inductees were celebrated at the Providence City Hall for their work in 2017. Those honored dedicated significant time and effort to serving their community and the constant pursuit of civil rights.

Three Providence community activists were inducted into the 15th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hall of Fame at a ceremony held at City Hall Wednesday evening. The event honored the late Philip Addison Jr., Pilar McCloud and Mary Jones for upholding King’s legacy.

The ceremony stressed unity and community spirit, beginning with a speech by Mayor Jorge Elorza. He emphasized the impact that King’s lifelong work had on him as a young teenager struggling to find his way. Elorza said that the Talent Development Program at the University of Rhode Island, which was created to honor King after his assassination, provided him with a chance as a “skinny 18-year-old who didn’t have his head on straight.”

The community members being honored at the ceremony “embody Dr. King’s legacy,” Elorza said, including King’s belief in “the beloved community.”

A note of appreciation was then given by Council President David Salvatore, followed by a message of peace and hope by Reverend Chontell Washington. Before the three inductees were honored, actor Joe Wilson Jr. recited one of King’s speeches.

The ceremony first honored Addison — the first black member of Providence City Council who served from 1969 to 1981. He was a Freemason, a leader of the Mount Hope Neighborhood Association and “helped thousands of youth in the City of Providence,” Salvatore said. Addison’s wife, who accepted the award on his behalf, described him as a “people person” who never considered anyone “beneath … or above him.”

McCloud, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at Providence Youth Works chairwoman, was the next to be inducted. She “dedicated her life to social justice,” Salvatore said. “King is a civil rights icon that I look up to,” McCloud said. “Civil rights and social justice don’t take a nap.”

McCloud centers “the voices of young people in her work, and that’s what we value,” said Chanda Womack, founding executive director of the Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education.

Jones, one of the founders of the Smith Hill Community Corporation and a librarian at the Smith Hill Library was the last to be honored. Known as the “grandmother” of Smith Hill, she “instilled in us a thirst for knowledge,” said Jones’s daughter, Althea Graves, who accepted the award on her behalf.

“Mary did a lot for Smith Hill Library. … Everyone who went into that library knows who she is,” said Diane Tina Jones, a friend of the awardee.