Awards Recognize Contributions To African American Community

unsung.jpg2008 Unsung Hero Awardees; from left to right, Angela Stewart, Kimberly Kelly Alex Bagwell (in back) Harriet Bagwell, Larry Ware (back) LeRoy Gillead, Nathanial Williams Sr. (back) Monifa Turner, Dr.James Calloway, Thomas Piggee, Radwana Bentley. Photo by Ace Washington.

By Wade Woods

2008 marks the 20th anniversary of the Unsung Hero Awards. Over the past 20 years the San Francisco Library has commemorated more than 125 people with this award which honors the service they have given to the African American community.

In his message to the awardees and members of the community attending the awards celebration City Librarian said “the awardees’ enhance our neighborhoods, support the youths of our community and bring joy through music, goodwill and selfless volunteering.”

The award began at the Western Addition Branch Library 20 years ago in honor of Carter G. Woodson, the father of African American History Month. This years festivities where held at the Koret Auditorium at the Main Library.  This year’s Unsung Hero Award winners were:

Harriet and Alex Bagwell, members of the Freedom Song Network and the Vakani Mawethu Choir. The couple uses their musical talents to support local, national and international issues.

Ridwana Bentley, the founder of Lutheran Church of Our Savior “Happy birthday fund” which arranges and hosts birthday parties for homeless children, foster children and children affected with HIV/AIDS with a goal of putting a smile on a child’s face on their birthday.

Jean Banks, retired educator from the San Francisco Public school system and an active member in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority for more than 50 years.

Dr. James Calloway, an educator for over 38 years in the San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

LeRoy Gillead, longtime community worker and volunteer with the San Francisco Unified School District working with at-risk children developing and implementing strategies to foster greater level of awareness and appreciation for education.

Thomas Piggee, a prison evangelist and community figure who by standing on local street corners relentlessly shares his goodwill and positive and uplifting messages throughout his community.

Angela Stewart and Kimberly Kelly, licensed foster care parents who established the Healthy Children Pantry at the Dr. Charles Drew College Preparatory Academy.

Monifa Turner, active in the organization, Parents Who Care, and serves as president, chairperson or fundraiser for several community groups.

Nathanial Williams Sr., a generous donator of time and money to the children of his community, giving them the opportunities to participate in field trips as well as helping purchase classroom resources.

Larry Ware, a local community activist, a Bay Area historian, host of the annual Bayview Poetry Recital and a member of the San Francisco Library’s Council of Neighborhood Libraries.

Special award was also given to Betty Gibson who began working for the San Francisco Public Library in 1966 in the catalog department and then at various branches.  For the last 14 years she worked at the Western Addition Branch where she was instrumental in closing and then re-opening the library branch after its renovation.  She retired in June 2008.