Masons honor city’s female leaders
Local female leaders were honored Saturday by Salem Lodge No. 139.
The Lodge’s Sixth Annual Black History Month Community Awards Banquet/Robert A. Miller Scholarship Gala brought a crowd of more than 475 people to the Winston-Salem State University’s Anderson Center to witness 21 women and six sororities bestowed with honors.
Held each year during Black History Month, the gala has long been an homage to local trailblazers, mainly men. This year’s gala broke new ground.
“This year, we felt it was time to honor the women of our community in all that they do,” said Salem Lodge No. 139 Most Worshipful Master Kendrick Smith. “With any community, women have always been the backbone. Just looking at tonight’s honorees, their legacy speaks for themselves.”
Andrea Harris, head of Durham-based North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development, delivered the keynote address. She praised the honorees – who ranged from elected officials to business owners – for evincing the tremendous amount of achievement and talent in the black community. Harris said it is key that the honorees’ stories and those of other successful blacks be promulgated and shared with the next generation.
“We got to get around to young people, help tell our stories to them and help them understand they can believe in themselves, have some dreams of their own,” said Harris, whose agency is a statewide nonprofit focused on promoting business diversity.
District Court Judge Camille Banks-Payne, who became the county’s youngest judge when she was appointed to the bench in 2008, said she was proud to be among such a revered group.
“I’m humbled to be honored,” she said. “It’s a pleasant surprise to find out I was one among these many great women.”
WSSU Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Brenda Allen, another honoree, isn’t a native of the city like many of the other women; she has lived here only since 2009. She hopes the honor is evidence that her work at the university is paying off and garnering respect.
“One of the things I wanted to do as provost is really let the community know that the institution is still one that is important in this community, that values this community that we live in,” she said.
The gala raises money for the Lodge’s Robert Miller Scholarship. Each year, the $500 scholarship goes to a local high school student who plans to matriculate at a historically black college. Smith said the Lodge would like to increase the amount of the scholarship award. The late Robert Miller was a member of the Lodge and only the second African American reporter at the Winston-Salem Journal. He was also one of the founders of Victory-Masonic Mutual Credit Union, the first black owned-and-operated credit union in the county. Lafayette Jones and James Paul remembered Miller as a “giant of a man.”
The program also featured presentations on the history of the Lodge and Prince Hall Masonary, including a speech by Prince Hall himself – as portrayed by Rev. Shannon Sabsock – about the founding of black freemasonry in the United States. Salem Lodge #139 is one of five Prince Hall lodges in the city and is the second oldest, having been founded in 1905. It currently has 65 members, including attorney and local NAACP President S. Wayne Patterson and City Council Member James Taylor. Its community involvement initiatives includes feeding needy families and mentoring young people.
The following women were also honored Saturday: Mechanics & Farmers Bank Senior VP Evelyn Acree, City Council Member D.D. Adams, Novant Health Chief Diversity Officer Deborah Ashton, Nationwide Insurance agent Mosé Belton, Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke, Reynolds American Executive VP Lisa Caldwell, Atkins CDC Director Carol Davis, Assistant Superintendent Carol Montague-Davis, District Court Judge Denise Hartsfield, SMSi Co-Owner Sandra Miller Jones, Sweet Potatoes co-owner Vivian Joyner, Wake Forest University Assistant Provost Dr. Barbee Oakes, WFU School of Medicine Associate Dean Dr. Brenda Latham-Sadler, WXII 12 News anchor Wanda Starke, Body & Soul Owner Dana Suggs, N.C. Rep. Evelyn Terry, ESR Director Twana Wellman-Roebuck, BB&T Senior Executive Vice-President Cynthia Williams and Carolina Christian College President LaTanya Lucas.
The Chi Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the Winston-Salem Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Alpha Mu Sigma Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, the Rukiya Busara Piedmont Triad Graduate Chapter of Swing Phi Swing Social Fellowship, the Rho Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority and the 30th Masonic District of Order of the Eastern Stars were also honored.
See the photo gallery of all of the honorees here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.729032050462333.1073741887.355902327775309&type=1