Pauli Murray Project Receives Proud Shoes Award

Pauli Murray Project Receives Proud Shoes Award

The Southwest Central Durham Quality of Life Project honored the Pauli Murray Project with their Proud Shoes Award at their annual banquet on March 31, 2012.

Steering Committee members Victoria Joyner Phillips, Philip Azar, Mayme Webb-Bledsoe and project director Barbara Lau accepted the award from QOL representative Ethel Simonetti.


It is with distinct pleasure that I present the 2012 Proud Shoes Award to the Pauli Murray Project. We recognize Project Director Barbara Lau, documentarian, educator, communicator and Steering Committee members present, Victoria Joyner Phillips, Mayme Webb-Bledsoe, and Phillip Azar.

Recent events sponsored by the Pauli Murray Project convey dynamic cultivating; The Pauli Murray Project has prioritized community engagement. For us this means, first, learning about who Pauli Murray was – childhood resident of Carroll Street, young student at this very school; an inquisitive child who, from an early age, pointed out enough inequities in her world to keep us busy for the rest of our lives.

We’ve come to know this daughter of the Greater West End, an articulate trailblazer, ardent activist, founder of NOW, the National Organization for Women; as the first African American woman ordained Episcopal priest; Ivy League educator, attorney, lifelong scholar and prolific author of groundbreaking treatises, heartfelt poetry, and Proud Shoes, that remarkable account of her family’s unique story.

Under the leadership of Barbara Lau, the Pauli Murray Project has brought local, state, national and growing international focus to the accomplishments of one of the West End neighborhood’s finest daughters.

The Human Relations Commission of Durham, in a downtown ceremony, recently bestowed on the Pauli Murray Project our City’s most prestigious annual humanitarian distinction: the Carlie B. Sessoms Human Rights Award. Congratulations!

We’re now graced with a handsome NC state historic marker, pointing the way to the Fitzgerald home place where Pauli’s grandparents raised her. A solemn unveiling of this marker at Chapel Hill and Carroll streets proclaims, the Pauli Murray Project is on the map and on a roll.

What’s more – with vision and energy the Pauli Murray Project is collaborating with Durham’s Quality of Life Project (of the SW Central neighborhoods) to acquire the Fitzgerald home place on Carroll Street. They staved off the bulldozer and saved the home and its history with a boldness Pauli herself would surely applaud, Bravo!

From these rich roots now blooms a creative inclusive endeavor. What’s not to love: Celebrating Pauli’s birthday at multi-media parties with food and friends and sharing her work, Proud Shoes in earnest dialogue? We swell with pride at the vibrant murals and sayings, expressing Pauli Murray all over town. We shake our heads, in the old Cemetery, finding parts of her proud family buried separately, unequal. Face to face, we hear the voices of our youth saying “Yes” to the Pauli Murray Project. We now strive with our collective green thumb, to cultivate tender shoots in the Fitzgerald heirloom garden, together.

Guided by the Pauli Murray Project, we believe we too can lay out a welcoming bold path: creating our own trail of proud “shoe prints,” echoing the words of Pauli Murray, “Friends and Countrymen, I speak for my race and my people – the human race and just people.”  The legacy of Pauli Murray is now galvanized from dormancy, and rises to vibrant flower. Thank you Pauli Murray Project.

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