Westchester County will honor five African American leaders for their professional and civic accomplishments Thursday at the annual Black History Month and Trailblazers Award ceremony.
“It is a pleasure once again to sponsor Trailblazers and to pay tribute to five extraordinary African Americans from Westchester who have accomplished so much,” said County Executive Rob Astorino in a statement. “I thank the county’s African American Advisory Board for putting this event together as a way to remind all of us of the significant contributions in our own county of African Americans. This is a fitting way to observe Black History Month.”
Barbara L. Edwards, chair of the advisory board, noted the historic significance of 2013 as the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.
“These historical milestones were made possible by President Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., two men of courage,” she said. “The 2013 Trailblazers embody the same kind of tenacity and commitment to continuing the legacy of our ancestors, while making an indelible impact for future generations.”
The award recipients are, as explained in the statement:
• Harry O. Bright Jr.: The Whitney M. Young Jr. Award, for Civil Rights and Civic Engagement. Bright, a resident of White Plains, has been a constant champion of civil rights and social justice for all Westchester residents. He served as executive director of the White Plains Commission on Human Rights from 1985-2003. He was also chair of the board of the United Way of Westchester and Putnam, past president of the New York State Association of Human Rights Commissions, co-founder of the White Plains Coalition for Cultural and Racial Harmony and co-founder of Embracing Diversity and Ending Racism.
• Dawna Michelle Fields: The Dr. Valiere Alcena Award, for Health and Human Services. Fields, a resident of Mount Vernon, has bettered the life of many in the county through her work to promote dental care for young people through her job as the national program manager of Colgate-Palmolive Company’s “Bright Smiles, Bright Futures.” Her community activities are many and include: The Links Incorporated, Black Women’s Agenda, National Council of Negro Women, Inc., Sister to Sister; Black Agency Executives, African American Chamber of Commerce; National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women; The Continental Societies; Selective Corporate Internship Program; The NAACP; The Network Journal.
• Michael D. Armstrong: The Cab Calloway Award, for Arts and Culture. Armstrong, a resident of New Rochelle, is senior vice president and general manager of BET International and Paramount Channel, part of Viacom International Media Networks. VIMN is comprised of many of the world’s premier multimedia entertainment brands, including MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, VH1, VIVA and BET. He is also a board member of Dance Theatre of Harlem. He has used his work to advocate for and provide cultural enrichment for residents of Westchester and beyond.
• Sharon Epperson: The Madame C. J. Walker Award, for Business and Economic Development. Epperson, a resident of New Rochelle, is a well-established financial expert with CNBC TV, where she is currently the senior commodities and personal finance correspondent. She is also a regular contributor to NBC’s Today Show and has written for many publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Self, Essence, Ebony and Time. Epperson is committed to improving financial literacy, especially among young people.
• Dillard Boone II: The Life Time Achievement Award (posthumously). Boone was a resident of Mount Vernon at the time of his death on Jan. 10, 2013. A former member of the African American Advisory Board, he served as Master of Ceremonies of the Trailblazers events in 2011 and 2012. Boone excelled in many areas and was a producer; radio host; special events coordinator; organizer of business expositions; and was the founder and chairman of the A’vitar Foundation. The foundation was created to develop strategies for the production of events and cultural programs, performances, exhibits and literary and cultural events. Boone dedicated his life to the arts and enriching the lives of others through the arts. His reach as a volunteer spanned various organizations and geographical boundaries. He had served as Mount Vernon’s deputy commissioner for Planning and Community Development and worked for the Agency for Child Development for the City of New York.