Saturday, May 21 was a perfect, sun-filled day for the Austin Green Team’s annual memorial brick-laying. But these are no ordinary bricks. They are inscribed with the names of deceased community activists. Each year the Green Team honors those Austin residents who have passed away in the past year.
This recognition is one of the most beautiful and respectful events that any organization does on the West Side. Remembering those activists who have made differences in people’s lives is a special occasion.
This year’s observance included Exodus Drums Corps, founded by Edward James. The music director is Lonzo Shealy. Drum members included Ziris White, 14; Jermal Flowers, 13; Willie Hall, 11; and Lamont Perteet, 12. They played the drums as memorial bricks were placed in their designated locations.
Leaders and family members turned out to honor community leaders and show that their work has not been forgotten.
As always, Green Team President Mary Peery and Executive Director George Lawson handled the ceremonies. This year’s memorial bricks went to the following:
•Marrell Williams, an active member of the South Austin Coalition Seniors organization. She was the inspiration for SACCC’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren group. Always a strong advocate for children, she was sometimes unable to attend SACCC Seniors monthly meetings because she was helping to care for her great-grandchildren. Mrs. Williams passed away Dec. 23. Her sister, Mildred Warren said Marrell “was a great worker in the neighborhood. She loved children, and I thank everyone for doing this.”
•Minnie Stroud, who had the courage to go public when she almost lost her house because of a few hundred dollars not paid on her property tax. With the help of the late Evelyn Spivey and the Morise Foundation, West Side organizations and leaders and Rev. Jesse Jackson came to her aid to save her home. Clarence Prince from the Morise Foundation spoke about how Evelyn Spivey worked with Stroud to save Stroud’s home.
•Lucinda Ware, was the beloved matriarch of a large community-activist family, the Ware family. She was very active in the South Austin Coalition and a co-founder and developer of the Laramie Washington “Community Heroes” Park. Her kids and grandkids called it “peanut park” in the old days. Mrs. Ware was a special inspiration to Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn who gave the eulogy at her funeral service. Quinn frequently held his Sunday afternoon press conferences on utility issues on the steps of the family home on West Washington Boulevard. Mrs. Ware had a large family contingent who turned out, all were wearing T-shirts with her portrait in the front. Her son, Al P. Ware Sr., introduced some of his mother’s “adopted sons”: Rev. William Black, Bob Vondrasek and George Lawson. Her brother, William Sanders, said he was glad to be here and remembers how his sister often fed him. Al Ware Sr. thanked everyone for honoring his mother.
•Leola Spann, was the president of Northwest Austin Council and was an angel of justice. When Mrs. Spann passed away on Easter Sunday, the entire Austin community suffered a tremendous loss because she was such a great community organizer. She created “Paradise” community garden at Latrobe & Huron (the first of 13 she helped create), initiated the “Smoke Out the Sellers” program to drive drugs out of the community, and worked to revitalize Austin High School. Ms. Jackie Reed, executive director of Westside Health Authority, talked about Mrs. Spann and her many achievements: “She stood the test of time even to the point of coming out of her own pocket. She loved Austin and she never got tired of doing enough. She had this vision about people having beautiful yards, and I remember when she had the big convention. She had gotten flower pots donated and chicken from Church’s Chicken. She had a convention and gave out awards to people having the most beautiful yards. She was committed to Austin, and she was committed to the Green Team.”
This year a representative from Gov. Blagojevich’s office attended the event. Frederick T. Young, assistant office manager told everyone, “I came out today to spend a little time in the Austin community. Actually I’ve moved here. Thank you for the things you guys are doing in the community and continue to encourage and uplift your family and this community. You’ll be seeing a lot of my face, and I do appreciated your time and the opportunity to come out today. I thank you.”
Each year the crowd becomes larger and larger. Congratulations to Austin Green Team for another successful memorial observance.