Northampton County NAACP 29th Annual Community Unity Day

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The Rev. Felton T. Sessoms delivers the keynote speech at the Community Unity Day breakfast, with a portrait of Effie Marie Giddens Spady, to whom the ceremony was dedicated, in view.

Story and Photos by Stefanie Jackson

The Northampton County NAACP, Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore, and Northampton County Public Schools organized the 29th annual Community Unity Day breakfast in the Northampton High School cafeteria on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 21.

The event commemorated King’s life and legacy and recognized citizens who have fostered unity through community service.

Four individuals posthumously received the Martin Luther King Jr. Trailblazer Award.

Michael Johnson (July 24, 1957 – Oct. 28, 2018) was Exmore’s first African-American director of public works. He was both a referee and a mentor to many of the youth who played sports in Northampton County Parks and Recreation programs. 

Mary “Mama Girl” Onley (Dec. 27, 1953 – Aug. 18, 2018) was a farm laborer who became a self-taught folk artist known for her papier-mache creations. Her works are featured in private collections and a permanent collection at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. Onley was also a pastor.

Arthur Lee Stevens (Oct. 7, 1953 – Nov. 19, 2018) was the head custodian and a bus driver for Northampton’s middle and high schools during a career spanning more than 30 years. He was an active member of First Baptist Church, in Capeville.

Effie Marie Giddens Spady (March 14, 1941 – Oct. 21, 2018) worked at the Northampton-Accomack Memorial Hospital for 33 years and ran the family business, the Do Drop Inn, with her sister, Jane Cabarrus. Spady was a lifetime member of the NAACP  and helped organize Community Unity Day for 29 years. She volunteered for countless voter registration drives and was an active member of Bethel Baptist Church, in Franktown.

Debra Murray embraces Northampton County NAACP President Jane Cabarrus before accepting one of two Martin Luther King Jr. Service Awards given at Monday’s ceremony.
Shirley Mitchell Christian (left), with Cabarrus, accepts a Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award. Christian worked as a cook and caterer for many years on the Shore and is active in several organizations, including the NAACP and the Northampton County Alumni Association. She is a 70-year member of African Baptist Church, in Cheriton.
The late Mike Johnson’s wife, Effie Johnson, and son, Marvin Johnson, accept the Trailblazer Award on his behalf.