LaTasha Hayes figured nobody’s focus captured life in her corner of the world, that she’s doing what she should do as a single mother to her three children and a niece, that strides to better herself and her community, and care for her family is simply, well, a given.
Hayes, 31, certainly didn’t think anyone thought she deserved an award.
Yet Hayes’ family was one of six honored last month at the 32nd annual Strengthening the Black Family Conference. The event, which had the theme “Staying Connecting – Mobilizing Resources to Strengthen Families,” was held at Martin Street Baptist Church.
“I was very surprised,” said Hayes. “I never imagine that me and my family would qualify for something like this, so it made me feel good that someone looks at us in a way that they recognize my efforts and how much I work to take care of my family and others and to be a blessing to my church.
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“I’ve never won anything before, and it’s not often you get recognized for doing the right thing and for just being a mother,” she said. “I am really humbled. It’s an honor.”
Since its inception in 1980, Strengthening the Black Family works to promote positive changes in the community through program development, partnerships and financing that improves the quality of life for families, specifically black families, in Wake County and surrounding areas. The idea is that through emphasis and support toward traditional values, the black family will survive.
Each year, the organization accepts nominations for families who represent healthy, strong families in the categories of traditional, single-parent, extended and, added in the past three years, military families.
This year, there were six nominees – and six awards.
“All of them seemed to be very deserving, so rather than choose, we included them all,” said Melvin Jackson, project manager for Strengthening the Black Family.
The keynote speaker for this year’s conference was nationally recognized Alzheimer’s researcher Goldie Byrd, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro. Byrd also is principal investigator of the university’s study on the Genetic Susceptibility of Alzheimer’s Disease in African Americans.
“It’s a No. 1 issue in the black community,” Jackson said. “We need to know more about the issues around Alzheimer’s; how to deal with it, spiritual and respite care for caregivers, finances; all the things we need to know in terms of caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s in our families and in our community because just like most health issues, we are disproportionately represented.”
The conference also welcomed Jason Langberger, an advocate with Legal Aid North Carolina, to share strategies to dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Special youth sessions at the conference included a showcase of the community health advocacy work around obesity, tobacco and stress that is underway by Youth Empowered Advocating for Health, or YEAH, a program of Strengthening the Black Family.
Although Hayes fit neatly into three of the four categories the organization considers for the award, she was honored as part of a military family. Hayes, who was honorably discharged from the U.S. navy following an injury, and is the single mother of two sons, ages 14 and 5, and a daughter, 10. She extended her family when she rescued her 9-year-old niece from a difficult situation. She’s studying for a degree in psychology with a concentration in organizational behavior.
Honored as traditional families were Joseph and Paula Arrington and their five children, ages 22-29; and Edward and Nicole Knight and their three children, ages 18, 13 and 2. Melissa Jordan and her two sons, ages 13 and 10, and Consuela Gardner and her 17-year-old daughter ; and the extended family of Hamptina “Tina” Townes and her daughter, 24, son, 13 and granddaughter, 2, were all recognized as single-parent families.
The Knights were nominated by Pastor Liz Armstrong of Faith Tabernacle of Praise in Garner.
“They are so instrumental in the ministry,” Armstrong said of the Knights. “Being a pastor, I know some of the trials and tribulations they have gone through and I know how they stuck together and strengthened one another, and continued to be prayer warriors and church participants and just a help all the way around.
“It’s an excellent idea to commend them,” she said. “That’s a star in Strengthening the Black Family’s crown. It’s very important to recognize people in our communities.”
Nicole Knight said the award mirrors her family’s motto.
We’re a Christian family,” she said. “Our family motto is, “If we can help someone along the way, then our living is not in vain.
“We take joy in helping our community.”