District Attorney Lynne Abraham yesterday honored three Philadelphians who have devoted themselves to fighting violence, mentoring youth and achieving academic excellence.
This year's recipients of the fifth annual Urban Genesis Community Spirit Awards included Arlene Freeman, a former school-district teacher's aide who spends countless hours marching through communities to speak out against violence.
Also recognized were Veronica Norris, who volunteers her time in numerous youth organizations, and Leticia J. Walston, a 2007 graduate of Mastery Charter School's Lenfest Campus.
The D.A.'s Office awarded each woman $500.
The three Community Spirit Awards promote the legacy of late Philadelphians who devoted themselves to the community. Yesterday's ceremony at the D.A.'s building on South Penn Square in Center City also honored the widows and a son of those late community members.
Walston, now 18, received the Officer Tony Johnson Award for Educational Advancement, named after a police officer who also served as a volunteer basketball coach at Overbrook High School.
At Mastery, Walston had maintained a 3.4 grade-point average while finding the time to captain her school's drill team, lead a community-based praise-dance team and take the lead role in the anti-violence play, Killadelphia, which was performed in churches and other community venues.
She is now a freshman at Ursinus College in Montgomery County, majoring in theater arts and business. Her award was in the form of a scholarship.
Freeman, 64, an anti-crime activist who lives in East Germantown, was honored with the Wrice-Campbell Award for Neighborhood Safety, named after late anti-violence activists Herman Wrice and Jacqueline Demby-Campbell.
Freeman couldn't attend the ceremony because all her anti-violence work has tired her and affected her health, said C.B. Kimmins, of Mantua Against Drugs, who accepted the award on her behalf. She was with her daughter in Baltimore yesterday.
Abraham told those gathered that Freeman "has stood out on more corners late at night, in the most terrible weather, rallying people around the notion that drugs are death, and going to school and staying in school is the key to a wonderful, beautiful future."
Freeman decided to share half of her check with St. Vincent De Paul Church in East Germantown, Abraham said.
Norris, 52, of Logan, received the James Mills Award for Positive Youth Development, named after the former executive director of the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network, who worked with children on anti-violence issues.
Norris, an administrative assistant at Temple University, volunteers to mentor youths in various activities and serves as a block captain.
She gave half of her award to Unison Kids, a nonprofit organization that produces a weekly TV show on Channel 66 that addresses social issues and promotes young talent. *