Housing authority honors “pillars”
Two people who credit High Point public housing communities with helping set them on the right paths in their lives were honored Wednesday.
Mary Lou Blakeney and Bobby “Fuse Green III were presented with the High Point Housing Authority’s Pillars of Fame awards for their successful professional and service endeavors.
The authority bestows the award each year to a pair of former tenants who overcame adversity in their early lives to become pillars of their communities.
Blakeney is well-known for her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. She was one of the organizers of the first sit-in by high school students in the country, which took place at the former Woolworth’s in High Point on Feb. 11, 1960.
Green is an acclaimed New York artist and designer who has designed clothing and shoes for Nike and whose work has been featured in Spike Lee films.
High Point University President Nido Qubein, keynote speaker for Wednesday’s induction ceremony at Astor Dowdy Towers, spoke about both of them during his remarks.
“I have great respect for Mary Lou. This is a woman who involved so much of her time in the Civil Rights Movement and as a nurse and came back to her hometown to do some amazing things,” said Qubein. “Fuse, I just met you. But I know you’re good people. You know how I know you’re good people? I know your mama.”
Qubein’s remarks, laced with several autobiographical anecdotes, stressed the theme of rising above challenging circumstances.
“If the circumstances in which we find ourselves define the person we become, most of us would never do anything in life because we would just give up,” he said. “History is filled with men and women who did not give up.”
Blakeney, a former resident of Daniel Brooks Homes, said she was honored to be associated with past Pillars of Fame winners, such as High Point Mayor Bernita Sims, Guiford County Sheriff BJ Barnes and housing authority CEO Angela McGill.
“This is a very, very special award for me today. I am joining an elite group of people,” said Blakeney, who added that it was a blessing to move into public housing with her family when she was 8 years old.
“For the first time, we had enough room for our family of seven — five children and two parents. We had a four-bedroom brick apartment with a coal bin and a pantry. And it was a duplex. That was huge in my life at 8 years old. Really huge,” said Blakeney, a former City Council member and retired nurse who is also well-known for her service on behalf of senior citizens and other causes. “We had an unspoken rule in this community, I would find our later. And that was: pride. Pride in the property.”
Green, who grew up in the J.C. Morgan housing community, said winning the Pillars of Fame award was “like an Oscar.” Several members of his family were on hand to watch him receive the award.
He went on to thank Hank Wall, founder of Brothers Organized To Save Others, a youth mentoring group through which Green received support. One of Green’s first artistic designs appeared on a BOTSO promotional t-shirt.
“Hank is like a superhero. He’s one of those people who reaches his hand out when he has his hands full,” said Green.
He said J.C. Morgan was a close-knit neighborhood where everyone looked out for each other.
“In that neighborhood, we all really thought highly of each other and wanted the best for each other,” Green said. “Anybody that wanted to achieve anything, they had the entire neighborhood behind them. They had the support of everybody. We loved and played with each other and we knew everbody in the neighborhood.”