The Olender Foundation hosted its 26th annual awards, Dec. 6, with top honors going to a trailblazing civil rights activist, a newspaper publisher whose charitable work uplifts young people’s lives, and a judge who promotes human rights worldwide.
Singer Debra Tidwell and the award-winning jazz ensemble, Greg Twombley and the Washingtonians, kicked off the show which was emceed by former WJLA-TV news anchor Paul Berry. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray then greeted the audience which was composed of community leaders, judges, journalists and other guests.
Former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt presented the Olender Foundation’s Peacemaker Award 2012 to Janette Hoston Harris. Pratt, the District’s third mayor and the first African-American female chief executive of a major U.S. city, praised Harris for her leadership in civil rights, education, and interfaith understanding worldwide.
As a college student in 1960 Harris led and was arrested for a sit-in demonstration at a segregated lunch counter in her native Louisiana. Her case became part of a larger sit-in case that was argued and won before the U.S. Supreme Court by Thurgood Marshall. Over the years, Harris has held several high level D.C. government posts. Since 1998, she has served as City Historian of the District of Columbia. She is founder of the DC Hall of Fame, an organization that recognizes D.C. residents who make outstanding contributions to the community. She also established the D.C. Hall of Fame Leadership Academy which supports the career aspirations of high school students.
Jacquie Gales Webb, host of the No. 1 Sunday afternoon Gospel music program on 96.3 WHUR radio, presented the Foundation’s Generous Heart 2012 Award to Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of The Washington Informer. Webb saluted Barnes’ leadership of Washington Informer Charities, a non-profit that promotes literacy, supports local public school student newspapers and aspiring young journalists, and sponsors of the Washington Informer Spelling Bee, a local participant of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
Olender Foundation President Jack Olender presented the Advocate for Justice 2012 Award to Thomas Buergenthal, a former judge on the United Nations’ International Court of Justice and member of several international human rights tribunals. Author of A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy, Thomas Buergenthal is one of the youngest persons ever to survive the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp where millions were murdered.
The Olender Foundation presented scholarships to 12 law students at Howard University Law School and the David A. Clarke School of Law. The students were selected for their academic achievements and commitment to public service.
The presentations concluded with Debra Tidwell singing “So Many Heroes” to award recipients and was followed by a banquet.
It is the mission of the Olender Foundation to counter poverty and violence and to promote education and equal justice. The Foundation awards scholarships to students and supports a wide array of organizations that serve the public, especially the citizens of the District of Columbia. Grants in honor of this year’s award recipients will go to D.C. Hook-Up of Black Women, Howard University Law School, Ivy Foundation, John Wesley AMEZ Scholarship Fund, Mulambda Foundation, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Thomas Buergenthal Scholarship at G.W. Law School, United Black Fund, University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law Foundation, Washington DC Hall of Fame Society and Washington Informer Charities.