6 Albany heroes honored at AMA
ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - On Saturday, six Albany heroes were honored at the Albany Museum of Art’s Hometown Black Heroes’ Day.
The day was formed to recognize those brave men and women who fought for justice and change in the Good Life City.
Many who attended the event joined in on the melody that Freedom Singer Rutha Harris sang at the ceremony. Dougherty High School Chorale and an Albany State Student also paid tribute.
Along with Harris, The honorable Herbert Phipps, Frank Wilson, Shirley Sherrod, Charles Sherrod and Darrell Sabbs Sr. were honored. They all shared their stories of heroism that make up Albany’s history.
“But on the night of my father’s death, I made the commitment to stay in the south and devote my life to working for change. I prayed to God to help me find that answer,” said Shirley Sherrod, member of the equity commission with the United States Department of Agriculture.
Shirley is a Georgia native whose life and career are linked to the Civil Rights Movement, fighting particularly hard for the rights of Black farmers and other landowners in the South.
Together, she and her husband Charles, a former Albany city commissioner, founded the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education in the 1960s. The organization assists Black farmers, landowners, and others, with technical resources and support for successful farm businesses.
Charles was also heavily involved with civil rights demonstrators, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Everyone honored at the event said the path to freedom and equality took them through great struggle—some of that started in the school system.
“Things were so tightly segregated in Albany or Dougherty County or in Baker County when I grew up. And the white school board didn’t care anything about the black schools, and you know, we had to fight for whatever we got and make the best,” said Phipps, retired chief judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals.
Phipps is a native of Baker County. He worked his way through the legal system focusing on civil rights litigation.
Each of the honorees’ stories connects to one purpose, to serve the African American community.
Wilson, the retired executive director of the Albany Civil Rights Institute, served 42 years in various educational, governmental and community services positions. His work has designated Albany as part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail and the Martin Luther King Jr. Footsteps Trail.
“I enjoy serving because when you give to other people, in some small way you give back to yourself,” he said.
Harris served her community through a strong harmonious voice. The Freedom Singers quartet was formed in 1962 and was one of the most important voices of the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1960s. Harris used her voice in many demonstrations including one with Dr. Martin Luther King where she was arrested three times.
Sabbs’, a government relations official and lobbyist with Phoebe Putney Health System, began his fight for justice in Washington D.C.
Also a mentor for the Reimagine Albany Equity Advancement Fund from United Way of Southwest Georgia, Sabbs’ community work fought for systemic racial equity in housing, education and health.
“There’s so much to tell and just so much clarity in our mission as a people and our responsibility on this earth,” he said.
Through it all, these men and woman prevailed and brought forth change in the community—change they said the next generation will have to carry on.
“I say to young people you know, you can stay here and help make a difference, you do need to get the education so that you can make a real difference where you are,” Shirley said.
Wilson added that the next generation of leaders needs to invest in their education to make a real change in the community.
“As we look at this relay, we pass the baton and we have someone to pass it to,” he said.
Through honoring those hometown heroes, the art museum has decided to start an oral report that will feature other hometown heroes.
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