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N&R editor is recipient of NAACP Cora Tucker Award

South Boston News
Halifax County/South Boston NAACP President Frank E. Coleman Jr. presents the Cora Tucker Award to N&R editor Sylvia O. McLaughlin / January 02, 2014
The Halifax County/South Boston NAACP celebrated Jubilee Day on the first day of the year Wednesday with a rollicking service built around a message of fellowship and service — capped by the presentation of the Cora Tucker Award, in honor of the late civil rights activist and local community leader.

This year’s winner is News & Record editor Sylvia O. McLaughlin, who was honored for her four decades of service covering the affairs of the community. The Rev. Frank E. Coleman Jr., president of the local NAACP chapter, said the committee that bestows the annual award voted unanimously to honor McLaughlin.

Coleman praised the winner for her “sweetness and humbleness” and drew smiles as he described visiting the News & Record office to inform McLaughlin of the NAACP’s selection. “When I first told her, she said, ‘Oh no, not me.’ When I asked her why not, she said, ‘I’m a mess.’”

Continued Coleman: “I told her, this year, we will honor a mess. There are lots of folks who truly wish they could mess up the way Mrs. McLaughlin messes up.

“We love you, and we honor you.”

In brief remarks, McLaughlin said she was humbled by the award and recalled her friendship with the late Cora Tucker and her struggles to bring about change in society. In addition to her civil rights activism, McLaughlin noted, Tucker was an ardent and effective foe of uranium mining.

The last time the uranium industry tried to mine the Coles Hill deposit in the 1980s, Tucker promoted the argument that the effort was a threat to poor communities in Southside that lacked the cash and political clout of the mining industry. In pointing out that Marline, Inc., the predecessor to Virginia Uranium Inc., was seeking to prey on poor and minority communities, Tucker helped to beat back the last attempt to mine the Coles Hill lode two decades ago. “She kept on fighting,” said McLaughlin of Tucker.

McLaughlin is the 15th person to win the Cora Tucker Award, which has been given out since 2000. Last year’s winner was Halifax Circuit Judge Joel C. Cunningham. McLaughlin is the first recipient who is white.

Coleman and the Rev. Kevin Chandler — First Vice President of the local NAACP and NAACP State Vice President — each explained the origins of Jubilee Day 151 years ago this week and its relevance today.

The event commemorates Jan. 1, 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln’s executive order freeing the slaves, took effect. Although it would require the end of the Civil War for freedom to become a reality for many African-Americans, New Year’s has become a time of celebration as well as renewal for many black Americans. “Freedom’s Eve is what it is considered,” said Chandler, referring to New Year’s Eve.

Chandler added that while today Americans have legal protections that guarantee their freedom, the work of making a truly free society remains unfinished. “When we are able to remove the chains of oppression, when we are able to remove the chains of inequality, when we can remove the chains of unequal education, that is when we will be free,” he said.

The Rev. Coleman, pastor of First Baptist Church of South Boston on Ferry Street, gave a sermon based on a biblical passage in the Book of Acts that delves into the meaning of fellowship.

He noted the NAACP is not solely for African-Americans — “the NAACP is not a black organization for black people, but a human rights organization, a civil rights organization, for all people who care about equal rights for all people.”

The Bible, he said, teaches that fellowship is a positive act that requires devotion to the needs of others. He implored the Jubilee Day audience at Banister Hill Baptist Church in Halifax to take action to overcome “the disease of racism, the disease of discrimination, the disease of classism.

“If you’re hungry, whatever I can do to help, I ought to do it. We cannot claim fellowship unless you take care to meet the needs of all those in the fellowship,” he said.

In addition to Cora Tucker Award, the NAACP leaders presented donations to Dr. William Carr, representing Banister Hill Baptist Church, where the NAACP holds its monthly meetings. Coleman praised Carr as a “leader with great vision” in the church and in the community, where he works as a dentist.

Coleman and Chandler also presented a donation to the Banister Residential Care Facility, represented by Roberta Allen and Janice Tally, to support its care for elderly residents. Allen, president of the Banister Convention, the church group that operates the home, thanked the NAACP for its support and said the organization had been instrumental in helping to revive the home’s fortunes after it dropped to only six residents last year.

Today, the Banister Residential Care Facility, with Tally as its administrator, is up to 13 residents. “With your care and help, we are up and are going strong,” said Allen.

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Congrats Sylvia! Very deserving and happy for you!


Congratulations Sylvia. I haven't seen you in years but have always admired your intelligence and your independent spirit. Wishing you a great 2014.

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