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NAACP Pasadena Branch to Honor Change-Makers at 35th Ruby McKnight Williams Awards Dinner

Published on Monday, March 18, 2024 | 5:40 am

A number of notable individuals will be recognized when the NAACP Pasadena Branch holds its 35th Ruby McKnight Williams Awards Dinner on Thursday night, March 21, at Le Méridien Pasadena Arcadia. The last dinner was back in 2019.

The awards are named for Pasadena resident Ruby McKnight Williams who served Pasadena for over 50 years, including as NAACP Branch president in 1959, 1960, 1969, and into the 70s. Under McKnight’s leadership, the branch supported two national precedent-setting civil rights cases. 

In 1983, in recognition of her lifelong fight for the cause of civil rights and human dignity, she was named the NAACP Pasadena Branch’s President Emeritus. Since 1985, the chapter has held a gala and awards dinner, with 2019 marking the 34th annual Ruby McKnight Awards.

This year’s theme, “Celebrations, Challenges, Creativity: And Still We Rise,” befits the organization’s ongoing efforts in spite of recent challenges, notably the COVID-19 pandemic.. 

“As an organization, we’ve had to develop other streams of funding since we weren’t able to have the banquet. That was a challenge for us,” Allen Edson, President of the NAACP Pasadena Branch, said. “Of course, there were a lot of restrictions, so a lot of things had to be done differently.”

The awards recognize and honor exceptional community service and celebrate the resilience of the local African American community. According to the program, the honorees are Dr. Lawton Gray, Dianne Lewis, Hallie Humdy, John Burch, Charles E. Loveman, Jr., Sheila Spicer-Batice, Leslie Chang, Dr. Aaron Bruce, Bishop Milton M. White, and Danny Bakewell, Jr. 

The NAACP Pasadena Branch said these individuals have made significant contributions across various fields, showing their dedication to helping improve the community.

Edson said the awards night is also the NAACP Pasadena’s major fundraiser. 

“We’re trying to raise money so we can continue to do the activities that we have been doing this coming cycle or time period,” he said. “We’ll be focusing again on home ownership. We’re also going to be dealing with hate crimes. We’re going to be dealing with women’s issues and economic development.”

The local community will also see how the local NAACP collaborates with other organizations that help them achieve their goals. 

“It’s a great networking event, and again, it gives people an opportunity to see the type of organizations and personalities that we interface with on a regular basis, organizations that help us achieve our goals,” Edson said. “So it just puts faces on names in a lot of cases, but it also lets people know who we play with.” 

As co-chairs of the event, veteran teacher and real estate agent Juanita West Tillman and lawyer Laura Farber play vital roles in its planning and execution. Rose Bowl CEO and General Manager Jens Weiden and real estate professional Larry Edson, Allen’s cousin, serve as honorary chairpersons who bring their community influence and expertise to ensure the event’s success.

Tickets for the 35th Ruby McKnight Williams Awards Dinner are still available, with options for individual tickets and tables of 10.

To purchase tickets and for more information, visit or call (626) 793-1293.

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