Five earn Black History Month recognition

Published 4:56 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2023

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WINTON – As Black History Month came to a close, the contributions made by five residents of Hertford County did not go unnoticed.

At their meeting on Feb. 20, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners paid tribute to Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Cy Grant, retired educator Dr. Viola Vaughan Holland, local youth coach and mentor Yahmale Vaughan, civic leader Barbara Price Sessoms, and voting rights proponent Lillie Owens-White.

“I feel so honored tonight to reflect upon five people who will be recognized during Black History Month,” stated Andre Lassiter, chair of the county’s Board of Commissioners. “These individuals have served our community with honor and distinction in many capacities, from education, to civic duties, to voter registration, I can go on and on.”

Each of the commissioners took turns recognizing one of the five individuals honored.

Bill Mitchell, vice chair of the board, recognized Judge Grant. Mitchell said Judge Grant, a native of Bertie County, graduated in 1977 with a degree in Political Science from NC Central University. He then entered that university’s School of Law, graduating with honors in 1981.

Grant became an attorney, working with Federal District Court Judge Richard C. Erwin. In 1983, Grant became the first Black Assistant District Attorney here locally.

Two years later, Grant and his wife along with William R. Lewis formed the Grant, Lewis and Grant Law Firm in Ahoskie.

In January of 1989, Grant became the first Black Senior Resident Superior Court Judge in the local district (Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties) and has served in that capacity ever since.

Commissioner John Horton honored Dr. Vaughan Holland.

“For a number of years, Dr. Vaughan Holland has fought for justice and the rights of people of color in our county and beyond,” Horton noted.

He said that Vaughan Holland was a classroom teacher for 20 years and followed that up by being an educational administrator for another 20 years.

“She has worked for Halifax County Schools and Gates County Schools as a teacher and a principal,” Horton said.

He added that Vaughan Holland is the first-ever female president of the Hertford County NAACP.

“She’s always willing to help people,” Horton said.

For the contributions he has made to the youth of Murfreesboro, Vaughan was recognized by Commissioner Leroy Douglas.

Douglas noted that Vaughan is a veteran of the United States Air Force. He is the founder and Director of the Murfreesboro Raiders Youth Organization.

“His goal was to start a program centered around giving youth of the town and elsewhere a sports and recreation program,” Douglas remarked. “He also started the Murfreesboro Raiders Youth Football team, serving as its president and as a coach. He believes teaching life lessons to our youth builds character and a sense of accomplishment by working together.”

Last year that program added cheerleading for the girls of Murfreesboro.

He now oversees all of the town’s youth recreation programs, to include baseball, football, basketball, cheerleading, and athletic camps and clinics. In 2022, Vaughan put together the Rivers Park Basketball Tournament, which included free food and music.

“He gives great advice to boys from single-parent homes while teaching young men about the game of basketball and being a role model,” Douglas said. “He also mandates twice-per-week study halls for the football players. He utilizes Murfreesboro Methodist Church as a space to conduct educational tutoring. He utilizes retired teachers from Murfreesboro to provide tutoring.

“It’s great to have a younger person like him to be a role model in the community,” Douglas added.

Lassiter recognized Sessoms, an Ahoskie native, for her civic pride and community service.

He noted that she is a graduate of R.L. Vann High School and from Shaw University. Sessoms is the Director of the R.L. Vann Resource Center and is a volunteer at ECU Health Roanoke-Chowan Hospital.

Sessoms is the former president of the North Carolina Ministers Wives and Widows and held other offices with that organization.

Owens-White was recognized by Commissioner Ronald Gatling.

“She is an honoree and my friend,” Gatling remarked.

Owens-White is a graduate of C.S. Brown High School and Shaw University. She worked locally with Telamon Corporation for 25 years as a Case Manager.

She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and a member of the Roanoke-Chowan Community College Board of Trustees.

Owens-White served 15 years on the Hertford County ABC Board, serving as Chairperson and is currently a member and Chairperson of the Murfreesboro Planning and Zoning Board. In 2018 she was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to the Murfreesboro Historical Association and also serves on the Board of Directors of the C.S. Brown Cultural Arts Center and Museum.

She is currently as member of the Roanoke-Chowan Health Board, serving as the Chairperson.

Owens-White was also praised for her years of work as an advocate to improve voting rights locally.

Each of the recipients received a framed Black History Month Community Award certificate, which partly read, “We take pride in knowing that you are an inspiration to the Black community and the citizens of Hertford County. We believe it takes many hands to build strong and safe communities and you are a vital part of that important process. We commend you for your dedication to helping members of the community realize their full potential.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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