Westchester County Honors ‘Trailblazers’ as Part of Black History Month Celebration

Deborah Michelle Norman and Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins

Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins honored two remarkable African American citizens, as well as the life’s work of a husband and wife team, for their professional accomplishments and community efforts at the 2024 Trailblazers Awards Ceremony. “Trailblazers: Preserving our Legacy” was hosted live at the Gateway Center at SUNY Westchester Community College, as part of the County’s Black History Month celebration. The awards recognize individuals who have made great contributions to African American history and culture throughout Westchester County, and beyond.

Latimer said: “February is Black History Month, and each year we pause to reflect on the impactful stories of those Black Americans who are helping to shape our history here in Westchester, and all over the world. We are fortunate that our County has been blessed with places and exhibits of historical significance, that help us remember the Black leaders who were change-makers long before our time. Tonight, help us by honoring these two outstanding individuals, as well as the legacy of two former Westchester County residents, who 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. The legacy of the Clarks and the influence they had on children across the country will live on for generations to come. Let us be inspired by their efforts, and use it as a platform for change.”

The 2024 Trailblazer Honorees received awards in the areas of Civil Rights and Civic Engagement, as well as a Humanitarian Award. This year’s honorees are as follows:

The Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. Award for Civil Rights: Dean Horace E. Anderson Jr. 

Horace Anderson (left) and Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins.

Horace E. Anderson Jr. is the ninth dean of the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, appointed in December 2019. Prior to this appointment, Dean Anderson had been serving as Haub Law’s interim dean. The law school has been thriving under his leadership, with increased enrollment and application numbers and successful new programs, including the expansion of its part-time J.D. program to include an evening and weekend option.

Under Anderson’s leadership, Haub Law garnered its first U.S. News & World Report ranking as the No. 1 environmental law program in the country. He also strengthened the law school’s social justice initiatives and oversaw the launch of the new Pace Access to Justice Project, which directs the combined legal knowledge, skill and energy among Pace faculty, staff and students to close gaps in access to justice in our communities. A key component of this project, the Pace Access to Justice Lab (A2J), brings together students from across Pace University to apply human-centered design-thinking and legal training to create innovative technology tools to address real-world gaps in access to justice

Anderson has a strong commitment to supporting underrepresented communities in the law, and serves as the faculty advisor to the Black Law Student Association and Latin American Law Student Association. During his

time as dean and associate dean, he has also focused on students’ professional development and emotional health, emphasizing the importance of their cultivating a professional identity and learning to practice self-care as they prepare to enter the legal profession. Anderson joined the Haub Law faculty in 2004, and served as the school’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs from 2011 until his appointment as interim dean in 2018. He received his J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a B.S. in Economics, with a concentration in finance, from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. His areas of legal expertise include intellectual property, internet privacy, law and technology, and communications law.

Watch the Dean Horace E. Anderson Jr. Video

The Betty Shabazz Award for Civic Engagement: Commissioner Deborah M. Norman

Deborah Michelle Norman was born in New Rochelle, New York. At an early age her family moved to Mount Vernon where she attended Mount Vernon Public Schools. After High School Deborah immediately joined the U.S. Army in 1980. Deborah began her career as an active duty Military Police Officer (MP) and was stationed worldwide within the Army. Some of her assignments were Fort McClellan, AL.; Fort Stewart, GA; Fort Belvoir, VA; Berlin Brigade Germany; Panama; Guantanamo Bay Cuba (GITMO) and Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, New York. She attained the rank Master Sergeant and retired after 22 years of service. Her assignments were MP Patrol Officer; MP Patrol Supervisor; MP Desk Sergeant; Crime Prevention Non Commissioned Officer (NCO); MP Physical Security Inspector, MP Investigator, Drug Suppression Supervisor with the US Army Criminal Investigation Division (USACID), Team Leader, Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant, Equal Opportunity NCO, (EEOC) Drill Sergeant Instructor, Operations Sergeant and Acting First Sergeant.

Norman attended many military schools and military courses throughout her career. She received an Army Achievement Medal for being selected as Distinguished Graduate of the Primary Leadership Academy, where Norman was the #1 academic student out of 161 fellow soldiers. Norman’s additional awards include three Meritorious Service Medals; eight Army Commendation Medals; seven Army Achievement Awards and numerous Citations for Excellence.

In 2002, Norman retired from the Army and came back home to Mount Vernon where she was appointed by Mayor Ernest D. Davis as the first woman Deputy Fire Commissioner of the Mount Vernon Fire Department. For the past 21 years, Norman has worked for four City administrations, servicing the community as Deputy Commissioner of Planning and Community Development and Deputy Police Commissioner/Parking Bureau in 2016. She has served 15 years with the Mount Vernon Fire Department and in January 2020, Norman was appointed by Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard as the City’s first woman Fire Commissioner. She is a lifetime member along with her father, the late Mr. George Lee Jr. of the Aaron A. Lewis VFW Post 6396 in Mount Vernon. Norman is a proud mother of her only daughter Devyn M. Norman and two grandsons.

Watch the Commissioner Deborah M. Norman Video

The Humanitarian Award for their Contribution to School Desegregation: Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark

Long-time Hastings residents Mamie Phipps Clark (1917-1983) and Kenneth Bancroft Clark (1914-2005) were American psychologists who, as a married team, are best known for conducting groundbreaking research on the psychological effects of racism on the identity and self-esteem of Black children. They were activists on the national level, contributing to many social reform causes, including desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement.

Early on, while working at an all-Black nursery school, Mamie became interested in the topic of self-identification in young children. Her master’s thesis on this subject would form the foundation of the Clarks’ famous “doll tests,” where Black children – given the choice between a white and Black baby doll –

overwhelmingly preferred the white one. The couple worked together on other major initiatives, juggling an enormous volume of work while simultaneously raising their family in Westchester.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund called upon Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark to testify in several court cases challenging segregation in public schools. Their testimony demonstrating that segregation harmed Black children’s self-images before the Supreme Court contributed to the landmark Supreme Court Case that desegregated American public schools: Brown v. Board of Education.

Watch the Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark Video

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