The Black experience in America has much to teach us about being human, about overcoming obstacles and about the audacity of hope in the face of repeated defeat and unfair treatment. Still, wouldn’t it be nice to see the day when achievement is not defined by race or relegated to the shortest month?
Regardless, February did draw attention to two local residents who cannot be defined by race or limited by a calendar.
Gloria Crowder, 65, was Belleville’s Citizen of the Year. She boosts her neighborhood along 17th Street and focuses on developing youngsters’ character and helping girls reach their potential.
“She’s always looking for what she can grab onto that is positive … always trying to build everybody else up,” said Darrel Coons, a local fire department chaplain and former director of Belleville’s character initiative.
“It’s hard to say no to Gloria,” said retired Belleville school administrator Lynn Clapp, who nominated Crowder for the award. He said she immediately drew him in to her circle, put him to work and has a joyfulness that makes “everyone feel that they’re the teacher’s pet.”
The other example is Gen. Darren McDew, the commander of the U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base. He has coordinated support for global military missions, but also humanitarian relief to Iraq and during the Ebola outbreak. Since 1982 he logged 3,300 flight hours ranging from trainers to the big cargo planes.
But those who honored him recently during a program at the base spoke about the many pilots and commanders he has mentored. Speakers talked of the crop of mini Darren McDews spreading through the Air Force and the leadership lessons known affectionately as the McDew School of Leadership.
“I never was that talented, sharp or good-looking,” McDew said, drawing a big laugh. “This is pretty humbling … I am not worthy of all the accolades that have been bestowed today, but I thank you.”
Whether leading a major component of the military or volunteers in a community, both of these neighbors succeeded by putting others in a position to make a difference. We’re lucky to have them both.