Special to South Florida Times
FORT LAUDERDALE — Growing up in poverty did not control Dorothy Jackson Orr’s future.
Orr, in her 80s, was raised on Northwest Fifth Avenue in Fort Lauderdale’s historically black neighborhood. Her family remained there until the city purchased the property.
The retired educator, who lives in Oakland Park, was inspired by her teachers and her mother, who worked as a maid. “She scrubbed floors, did whatever needed to be done. She made all of our clothes, dressed us up, after our father left. She told us that we were all going to college. And for that, I am grateful.”
With her focus on education, Orr attended Florida A&M University, where she served as president of the Women’s Senate, and later the University of Michigan. An advocate for sound financial education and practices, she has served as Bright Star Credit Union’s board chairwoman since 1988 and she travels worldwide advocating for the credit union movement.
Orr’s service won her the 2012 African-American Achievers award in the field of community service, one of four recipients selected from among 368 nominations and honored at a ceremony on April 11 at the Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.
The other recipients at the event sponsored by the JM Family, Southeast Toyota and JM Lexus were Edith C. Bush, honored in arts and culture; Darryl Holsendolph, business and entrepreneurism; and Samuel Bruce McDonald, education.
Jason Green, 18, received the Edmund Gray Youth Achiever award.
Bush, of West Palm Beach, who was raised in segregated Alabama, has always advocated for social equality. Her father, a community activist, served as president of their local NAACP. “He really influenced me,” Bush said.
In 1971, Bush established the MLK Coordinating
Committee in West Palm Beach which promotes the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. through cultural activities, art exhibits and youth programs. She also helped establish the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County and is a member of the Black Educators Caucus.
“I feel like the first lady to the president,” Bush said about being honored.
Holsendorph, of Miramar, attributes his entrepreneurial success to having “great African-American role models throughout
my life.” People, he said, laughed at him years ago when he began selling
T-shirts. “But I went for my dreams.”
He went on to found Holsen Inc. Merchandising, a special events and promotional products company which was named the 2008 Small Business of the Year by the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce.
McDonald, of Lake Worth, said that he has always been guided by his mother’s message: “You can do anything anyone else can, you are a man among men, and you happen to be black.” Those words “had a profound impact on me,” said the retired educator who began teaching in 1956.
McDonald served as the first black principal in Palm Beach County, at Boca Raton’s first junior high school, and later as district superintendent. He retired in 1984.
Green is in the top percentile of his graduating class at Miramar High School. Along with his time management skills, he too credits his mother’s advice for his success. He is a member of the National Honor Society and International Baccalaureate magnet program with a 3.8 GPA. He plans to develop and market his own line of clothing “with a positive message.”
As part of his award, Green received a four-year needs-based scholarship to attend Florida State University worth up to $6,000 per year, presented by The Jim Moran Foundation Inc., with funding through the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship at FSU.
Attendees were im-pressed with the caliber of the honorees.
“All too often (blacks) are depicted as low achieving and unsuccessful and the media has the world convinced of this untruth,” said Linda Evanston, 53, of Hollywood. “That’s why I decided to come out and support the event. I’m tired of witnessing the negative. And this event disproves the negative stereotypes and tells the other side, the bigger side of the story. It should be nationwide.”
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net
Photo: Samuel Bruce McDonald