NAACP to honor outstanding women at event

Williams Barnes
Williams Barnes

The Gulfport Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will pay tribute to outstanding women at its annual Mother of the Year Program at 6 p.m. April 30 at the Lyman Community Center, 13472 U.S. 49, Gulfport.

Tickets for the event are $25 and may be purchased from any of the contestants or at Deloris Hair Flair Salon, 12001 Mobile Ave., Gulfport, 831-3647; or at Fashion Touch Boutique, 707 Watkins Ave., Gulfport, 896-9222.

Danielle Thomas, master of ceremonies

Danielle Thomas will lead off the event as master of ceremonies. Thomas is a public affairs specialist at the Mississippi Air National Guard Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport. The military created this new position in part to strengthen the relationship between the CRTC and the Gulf Coast community. She is a former editor, sports reporter, assistant assignment editor, news reporter and photographer for WLOX.

Sonya Williams Barnes, guest speaker

Special guest speaker will be Mississippi State Representative Sonya Williams Barnes. She has been the state representative for House District 119 since 2012. She is vice-chairperson of the House Ports, Harbors, Airports Committee and also serves on the House Gaming, Tourism and Marine Resources Committees. She is also the newly elected chairperson of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus. Williams Barnes is the owner of Lockett-Williams Mortuary Inc. and her most important and most enjoyable job is being the mother of one son, Kenson Shedrick Barnes.

Mother of Year contestants

Three of the honorees, JoAnn Gillium, Linda Lewis and Ruth Rucker, are contestants who will represent their respective churches and compete for the title of Gulfport Branch 2016-17 Mother of the Year. The Mother of the Year Contest is the legacy of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers. He established the program to honor women, commemorate the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case ruling by the United States Supreme Court and promote partnership between the faith community and the NAACP.

JoAnn Dawson Gillum

JoAnn Dawson Gillum is representing First Missionary Baptist Church Gulfport, Rev. S.V Seymour Adolph Jr. pastor. She has been married to Ralph S. Gillum for 37 years. They are the parents of two daughters, Tanya (Brandon) Larkin, of Baytown, Texas, and Monecia Gillum of Gulfport, and four grandchildren, Teraye, 20; Julien, 18; Idaylia, 8; and Brayden, 20 months old. She is retired after 36 years from the Milk of Magnesia Plant in Gulfport, as a packaging coordinator. She was owner of Extravagant Travel Service Travel Agency for 15 years.

Linda Parkman Lewis

Linda Parkman Lewis is representing Greater Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church of Gulfport, Rev. Philip Heidelburg pastor. She is married to Calvin M. Lewis. She is the mother of three adult children; Malcolm, John and Dorothy, and one stepson, Xavier. She is the proud grandmother of Ethan, Karigen and Xaden. Lewis studied information technology at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi and was employed for 18 years with Mississippi Power Company. She has enjoyed playing piano for several churches for over 40 years, including her participation with the Gulf Coast-Wide Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Choir.

Ruth Searight-Rucker

Ruth Searight-Rucker is representing Hillside Baptist Church, Dr. Travis B. Anderson, pastor. She is married to Dwight Rucker and is the mother of three children, three stepchildren, four grandchildren, nine step-grandchildren and one godchild. She works as an administrative secretary at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport. She is a member of the choir and helps with the youth department and the mission at Hillside. She participates in the Memorial Foundation and enjoys singing and helping others.

Outstanding service honorees

Four church matriarchs will be recognized for their longtime outstanding service:

Jimmie Crawford

Jimmie Crawford of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church is a native of Tylertown. She later lived in Sandy Hook, then moved to Gulfport at age 15, where she met and married the late Louis Crawford, Sr. She and her late husband are the parents of three children, seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Crawford has been an inspiring role model for her community and a devoted church member.

Henrietta Kennedy

Henrietta Kennedy of First Missionary Baptist Church was a teacher for 25 years. She and her husband of 69 years, the late Arthur Ryle Kennedy Sr., are the parents of seven children. She has been an active member in many organizations such as the Homemakers Club, where she was president for many years, past president of Church Street Elementary School PTA, Church Mission, and attends Sunday school regularly.

Cora Phillips

Cora Phillips of Hillside Baptist Church is a native of Alabama and moved to Gulfport or Bond in the early 1940s, where she met and married her late husband, Edmond Phillips, in 1942. They are the parents of three children. She continues to be active in her church and is a pillar of strength and a motivational example for many youths, young mothers, church members and many others throughout her community.

Gaynette Cox Flowers Pugh

Gaynette Cox Flowers Pugh of Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church celebrated her 100th birthday on April 1. She fulfilled a lifetime desire to complete her education and earned an associate's degree from Bishop State Junior College and subsequently a bachelor's degree from the University of South Alabama, graduating at the age of 65. She was employed with the Child Development Group Mississippi Headstart Program and as a Field Program guide, training teachers in the principles of early childhood education.

Ms. Gaynette, as she is affectionately called, is a life member of the NAACP and served as secretary of the Gulfport Branch for 20 years. During the turbulent '60s, she was active in voter registration drives, housing Freedom Riders and working to desegregate Gulf Coast beaches. She is a member of The Greater Mt. Olive Baptist Church, where she has served as Sunday school teacher, a choir member and a member of the missionary society.

Her other current activities include attending The Senior Citizen's Program, gardening, sewing, jewelry making and visiting family throughout the United States. She has 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

For more information, contact Deloris Cannon, chairman, at 257-9201 or via email