Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins honored two remarkable African American citizens for their professional accomplishments and community efforts at the 2023 Trailblazers Awards Ceremony. “Trailblazers: Preserving our Legacy” was hosted virtually from the Jay Heritage Estate in Rye as part of the County’s celebration of Black History Month. The awards recognize individuals who have made great contributions to African American history and culture throughout Westchester County.
Watch the 2023 Trailblazers Awards Ceremony: youtu.be/W1A3aNPB7bA
Latimer said: “February is known as Black History Month, and every year we pause to reflect on the impactful stories of those African Americans who helped shape our history in Westchester County, and all over the world. We are fortunate that here in Westchester, there are many opportunities to attend events, talks and exhibits to help us remember the Black Americans who were change-makers long before our time. Tonight, help us by honoring two outstanding individuals who have stood out above the rest for their public service, and immense contributions to the mosaic that is Westchester County.”
Jenkins said: “The Trailblazers Awards Ceremony was created more than 20 years ago as way to honor outstanding individuals in the name of other heroic predecessors, so as not to forget their struggle and sacrifice. Tonight’s honorees have had extraordinarily successful careers along two very different paths, but they both made it a point to help guide, mentor, inspire and give back to others who followed in their footsteps. Let us be inspired by their efforts, and use it as a platform for change in Westchester County and beyond.”
Chair of the African American Advisory Board Barbara L. Edwards, Esq. said: “African Americans have contributed to every aspect of American life, often in the face of incredible prejudice and hardship. Our ancestor’s history of courage, perseverance, faith and resolve motivates us to continue pursuing equality and a more promising future. This year, we honor two extraordinary Westchester residents who have strengthened and enriched our cultural heritage by sharing their time, talent and treasure. We commend our Trailblazers and pledge to align our efforts to advance justice for all.”
The 2023 Trailblazer Honorees received awards in the areas of Civic Engagement and Economic Development. This year’s honorees are as follows:
The Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. Award for Civic Engagement: C. Douglas Dixon, Esq.
Douglas Dixon, Esq. has specialized in business, corporate and real estate law, holding legal positions at the New York Stock Exchange, J.C. Penney Co., Inc. and Sterling Drug, Inc. He is a Principal with MEDX Global Healthcare Solutions, Total Business Solutions, Dixon Investment Capital, Inc. and Managing Member of the 1619 Development Group, LLC. As a native of New Rochelle, he attended Mayflower Elementary School, Albert Leonard Junior High School and New Rochelle High School. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Cincinnati and Georgetown University Law School, where he received B.A. and J.D. degrees respectively.
After leaving the private sector, he established his own law firm providing legal assistance to clients in a broad range of business and financial matters that included, but were not limited to, real estate, entertainment, asset purchase, joint ventures, recording contracts, corporations and real estate development. In real estate in the 1980’s, he helped establish the largest minority-owned real estate development company in New York State, Hillside Development Corporation, which developed mini-malls, tax credit property and affordable housing. For over 30 years, he served as General Counsel and Secretary to the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the largest minority business development organization in the world. In the late 1990’s, he joined a large minority law firm, Adorno and Yoss, a 250 member and 20 office law firm based in Coral Gables, Florida.
Throughout his legal career, Dixon has shown a strong commitment to the Westchester County community through his service on the African-American Advisory Board and the Association of Black Lawyers of Westchester County. He has also served as General Counsel to the African American Men of Westchester, Hillside Development and Hillside Realty and Management Corporations, and secretary and member of the Board of Directors of the Beta Zeta Boule Foundation, and the Boys and Girls Club of New Rochelle. Currently, he serves on the Board of Trustees of Livingstone College. Since his retirement from the practice of law, Dixon holds the position of Chairman of the Arthur S. Dixon (ASD) Family Foundation whose primary mission is human development. Dixon and the ASD Foundation have established scholarships in various churches and with the Charles Hamilton Houston Legal Institute at Georgetown University; and, funded educational programs for youth in various organizations.
Watch C. Douglas Dixon, Esq. Video
The Madam C.J. Walker Award for Economic Development: Dr. Valerie Mason Cunningham
Dr. Valerie Mason Cunningham, a Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Mason & Rice, is an accomplished strategic thinker, change champion and business value creator who has positively impacted the business services and technology industries over her illustrious career. She is a dedicated, diplomatic and respected business leader recognized for leading and inspiring professionals to deliver excellence. Mason Cunningham seeks to bring defined business visions to realization by assessing and mitigating risk, and propelling those visions through transformation.
Mason Cunningham enjoyed an extraordinarily successful career at Xerox Corporation with over 30+ years of progressive executive leadership and management experiences, while driving purposeful and consistent business results. She began her Xerox career in June 1980 as a sales trainee in NY. Her focus on delivering business excellence included managing an $850M business unit and increasing the book of business year over year. She secured the largest cash sale of $68M and contracted the largest IT services contract of $150M in the Healthcare Industry. Prior to her departure, she ascended to the position of Vice President of North America Operations Channel Marketing Group. Among her many other leadership roles at Xerox were Senior Vice President of Sales and Client Services, US Operations, Vice President and Business Transformation Executive of the US Operations Group, Vice President Sales Operations and Business Development Emerging Markets Operations (China, Hong Kong, Russia, and India), and Vice President & General Manager, Production Business Unit in Canada Operations.
Mason Cunningham has also served as a board member at the University of Connecticut, Business School Advisory Board, and served on the Vendor Advisory Council for CompTIA. Additionally, she served as Chair of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee Chair for Volunteer New York! for three years during a major transition of leadership, and through the pandemic leaving the organization in sound business standings with growth in business, resources and revenue. Prior to Board Chair at Volunteer New York!, Valerie served as the board secretary, governance committee member, strategic planning committee member, a graduate of the Leadership Westchester (LW) class of 2018, and a member of the LW Alumni Association. Currently she serves as a member of the Board of Trustees, Development Committee member and Strategic Executive Search Committee Member at Mercy College, and is a member of the “Friends of URI” (Urban Resource Institute) focused on Domestic Violence. She is also the managing principal of PRIDE Matters, LLC.
Watch Dr. Valerie Mason Cunningham Video
The Trailblazers Awards Ceremony also included a highlight video on Vinnie Bagwell, an awarded sculptor who is credited with reframing public art to include historic Black figures and images cast in bronze, and bronze resin. Her first public artwork of Ella Fitzgerald, called “The First Lady of Jazz,” made history as the first sculpture completed by an African-American woman to be commissioned by a municipality in the United States. Bagwell’s “Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden” which features five life-sized bronzes representing the first enslaved Africans to be manumitted by law in the United States, is now a stop on Westchester County’s African American Heritage Trail in Yonkers.
Watch the Vinnie Bagwell Video