Manassas Journal Messenger | Local residents honored on Human Rights Day

Perhaps Sam Shankar summed it up best Friday night at the Ferlazzo Building when he urged people to get involved in the community.

“Do something for the sake of yourself, for the sake of the community for sake of mankind, for the sake of the whole world,” Shankar said.

Shankar was one of five people to be recognized by the Prince William Human Rights Commission at its annual celebration of the Universal Human Rights Day Celebration, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

A community and youth advocate, Shankar told an audience of about 100 that helping in the community would make them live longer.

The doing, in itself, makes people happy and happy people live longer, Shankar said.

But the darlings of the show were the girls of The African Drum & Dance, led by Victor Berry on the dundunba — a 3-foot-tall African drum shaped somewhat like a wine glass.

In Berry’s hands, the dundunba is capable of a range of tones in intricate rhythms that formed a basis for the girls’ traditional African dance.

Three women performed behind the girls in swirls of yellow and orange traditional garb.

They moved forward briefly to show graceful African interpretive movement of obvious authenticity, but quickly returned the stage to the girls who were no less accomplished.

“The children are our principle dancers. They’re teaching us, we’re teaching them,” said Lynette Wright, a Prince William County school librarian.

Danielle White, another of the women behind the children, said the importance of performing at the awards ceremony was not lost on the dancers.

“This function is a grand way for the Prince William community as a whole to be exposed to African dance and drum,” said White, a professor at George Mason University.

Other award recipients included Roger Fitzgerald, a retired school teacher and guidance counselor, recognized for his advocacy for the arts through work with a local symphony and choral society.

Sandra Fox, a member of Unity in the Community, was recognized for coordinating diversity training for community organizations.

Father Jose Hoyos, of Holy Family Catholic Church, received an award for recognizing the community’s changing demographics and offering mass in Spanish at Holy Family.

The Rev. Arthur Jackson trained county employees in diversity and inclusion and established Rites of Passage, a mentoring program for young men.

Shankar instituted the Latch Key program at Baldwin Elementary School.

Phyllis Aggrey, director of the commission, said the commission is accepting nominations for next year’s ceremony.

“We’re looking for people who set themselves apart, who are involved in community activities,” she said.

Visit rghts or call (703) 792-4688 to nominate someone.

The African Drum & Dance will perform at Potomac High School on Friday as part of the school’s Kwanzaa celebration. For information, call (703) 490-6213.


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