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Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education

National Community Service Award Recipients

  • Congresswoman Alma S. Adams, Ph.D. will receive Spelman's 2021 Community Service Award

    Congresswoman Alma Davis to Receive National Community Service Award at SpelmanDr. Alma S. Adams was elected to her fourth full term representing the 12th Congressional District of North Carolina on November 3, 2020. After winning a special election in November 2014, Congresswoman Adams was sworn in immediately as the 100th woman elected to the 113th Congress.

    Representative Adams serves on the Committee on Financial Services; Committee on Education & Labor and the Committee on Agriculture. She holds several leadership roles; as Assistant Whip for the Democratic Caucus, Chairwoman of the Committee on Education & Labor’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections and Vice Chairwoman of the Committee on Agriculture.  Representative Adams’s subcommittee assignments, in addition to Workforce Protections, include Civil Rights and Human Services Committee on Education and Labor; Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations on Agriculture, and the Oversight and Investigations on Financial Services.

    Her signature legislative accomplishment in Congress is the enactment of H.R. 5363, the Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act that permanently provides funding totaling $255 million a year for all Minority-Serving Institutions, including $85 million for HBCUs.

    Representative Adams is the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus, which promotes bipartisan legislation that supports HBCUs and their graduates. Since its inception, the Caucus has:

    Secured additions to the Farm Bill, which includes 40 million dollars to HBCUs for scholarships, funding for newly established Centers of Excellence in agriculture, and additional funding for agricultural research and cooperative extension for 1890 land grant universities.

    Established the annual HBCU Braintrust, which allows faculty, staff and students from historically black colleges to visit the nation’s capital to promote their institutions with government officials and corporate leaders.  

    Throughout her career, Representative Adams has promoted quality education for all students, sponsoring and advancing numerous pieces of legislation to boost funds for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She has also introduced legislation to provide nutritious breakfast in schools and supports increased pay for teachers. For 40 years, Dr. Adams taught Art History at Bennett College.

    While at Bennett, she led the effort to increase student civic participation coining the phrase “Bennett Belles are Voting Belles” and organizing annual marches to the polls. As a former educator, Rep. Adams has dedicated her career to improving the lives of young people and her community. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the North Carolina A&T State University Human Rights Medal, the highest award presented by her alma mater to an individual who fights against social injustice and helps improve the world, and was also inducted into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame.

    In 1994, Dr. Adams was appointed by her peers to serve in the North Carolina House District 26 seat. She went on to serve ten terms in the state House. During her tenure, she rose to become the chair of the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus. Before serving as a member of the North Carolina General Assembly, Congresswoman Adams served nine years on the Greensboro City Council. Throughout her service to the second district in Greensboro, Dr. Adams worked to create safe and affordable housing and for the revitalization of neighborhoods. She began her political career in the 1980’s by becoming the first African American woman ever elected to the Greensboro City School Board. It was there that she made a lifetime commitment to effecting social change in her community and beyond.

    Congresswoman Adams has one daughter, Linda Jeanelle Lindsay, one son Billy E. Adams II, and four grandchildren: Joslyn Lindsay, Aaron Lindsay, Billy E. Adams III, and Miracle Sumner. Adams graduated from North Carolina A&T State University in 1968 and received her master’s degree in Art Education in 1972. She earned her Ph.D. in Art Education and Multicultural Education from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio in 1981. 

  • Atlanta's First Poet Laureate will receive Spelman's 2020 Community Service Award

    Pearl-CleageSpelman alumna Pearl Cleage, C'71, the first poet laureate of the City of Atlanta, will be awarded Spelman College's 2020 Community Service Award during Commencement on Sunday, May 16, 2021, at 9:30 a.m. Having spent the past several years as the Distinguished Artist-in-Residence at the Tony Award- winning Alliance Theatre, Cleage is the author of “What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day,” which was an Oprah Book Club pick and spent nine weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.

    Her new play "Angry, Raucous, and Shamelessly Gorgeous," had its world premiere as a part of the theatre’s 50th anniversary season in 2019 and is scheduled for productions around the country when the theaters reopen next year.

    Her other plays premiered at the Alliance include "Pointing at the Moon," "What I Learned in Paris," "Blues for an Alabama Sky," and "Flyin’ West," the most produced new play in the country in 1994. Her play "The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One Hundred Years" was commissioned by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and co-produced with the Alliance in Montgomery and Atlanta in 2010. Her first play for young audiences, "Tell Me My Dream," was commissioned and produced by the Alliance in 2015.

    Her book for children, "In My Granny’s Garden," was co-authored with her husband, writer Zaron W. Burnett with illustrations by Radcliffe Bailey was a part of the Mayor’s Reading Club in 2018 and distributed free to 15,000 Atlanta children. It was presented at the Alliance as a play for the very young in March, 2020 and is currently streaming through the Alliance website.

    Cleage recently completed work on "Sit-In," an animated film for young audiences about the sit-in movement in conjunction with Picture the Dream, a national exhibition sponsored by Scholastic Books. "Blues for An Alabama Sky" was included in the 1996 Olympic Arts Festival and has been produced in multiple American theaters every year since it premiered at the Alliance in 1995. The Alliance included a 20th anniversary production in their 2015 season, directed by Susan V. Booth. The play ran off Broadway at the Keen Company in New York in 2020 and is scheduled for a production at the National Theatre in London in 2021. Some of her other plays include "Late Bus to Mecca," "Bourbon at the Border" and "A Song for Coretta." She recently completed her first Radio play, "Digging in the Dark," for the Keen Company’s 2021 season.  

    Her first of eight novels, "What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day," was an Oprah Book Club pick and spent nine weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Her other novels include "Baby Brother’s Blues," which received an NAACP Image Award for Literature, "I Wish I Had A Red Dress," "Babylon Sisters," and "Things I Never Thought I’d Do."  Her memoir, "Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons and Love Affairs," was published by Simon and Schuster/ATRIA Books in April, 2014. She is also the co-author with her husband Zaron of "We Speak Your Names," a praise poem commissioned by Oprah Winfrey for her 2005 Legends Weekend, and "A 21st Century Freedom Song: For Selma at 50," commissioned by Winfrey for the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March.

    Cleage and Burnett are frequent collaborators including their award-winning ten-year performance series, “Live at Club Zebra!” featuring their work as writers and performance artists. Cleage was awarded the Governor’s Award for the Arts in 2018. She received an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from her alma mater, Spelman College, in 2010 and spent two years as a member of the Spelman faculty. She was the founding editor of CATALYST Magazine, an Atlanta-based literary journal, for ten years and served as artistic director of Just Us Theater Company for five years. Her work has been given grant support through the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fulton County Arts Council, the Georgia Council for the Arts, the City of Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs, and the Coca-Cola Foundation.