Street Renamed After Local Civil Rights Icon
By Dianne Anderson
It’s a rare occasion when a city council reaches a unanimous agreement on any single point of interest, but there are exceptions.
And, Waudier Rucker Hughes was exceptional in her own right.
The lifelong community activist drew undisputed support last week from seven Riverside City Council members who voted to rename a street in her honor.
Dr. Regina Patton-Stell, president of the Riverside branch NAACP, said these types of procedures take time to complete, but she said branch members pushed through to make it happen.
The naming of the street was already underway before Ms. Rucker Hughes passed away last year. Once members and friends got through the grieving process, they continued the charge to honor their longtime civil rights leader.
Stell said the city and the mayor were on board from the start, but it proved to be a challenging work in progress. At the last city council meeting, Stell opened and closed the PowerPoint presented by the local chapter, but she said members did the brunt of the work.
“My First Vice President, Sharron Lewis-Campbell and Mary Pasillas, who both were students of Woodie Rucker-Hughes…they just kept coming to me, that we want this street for Miss Woodie. This whole year, they really have worked it,” said Stell, whose friendship with Ms. Rucker Hughes spanned well over 40 years.
The street, to be named “Woodie Way” is located around 15th Street and Prospect Avenue, and aligns with Riverside City College where they play their games.
She describes it as a win-win for all.
“We are thrilled that Riverside City College and Riverside Unified School District are both going to do something. There will be additional recognition of Woodie Rucker-Hughes,” she said.
Ms. Rucker Hughes is celebrated for a lifetime of dedication to social justice, stemming from the early 1960s in Washington, DC, which continued through two decades served at the helm of the local branch NAACP.
She never gave up the fight for social justice. Until she passed, she was adamant about helping low-income energy customers. She was appointed to the Disadvantaged Communities Advisory Group to advise the California Public Utilities Commission, along with the Energy Commission on how low-income communities can access affordable clean energy resources.
She worked for many years as a child welfare and attendance manager and district coordinator for homeless education in the Riverside Unified School District. Her local career began teaching U.S. history at John North High School, where she served as Dean of Students and Assistant Principal.
Through the years, she had also garnered numerous community service awards, and was a proud Delta Sigma Theta “Delta Dear,” having served over 45 years with the sorority.
Natasha Ferguson said the street named in her honor brings to mind her fearless role in local history. She said the group effort was a labor of love for many who cared deeply about what she stood for in her lifetime.
“It will refresh everyone’s memory of all she did for the community,” said Ferguson, second vice president of the Riverside branch NAACP. “The light should be shined on her.”
Ferguson agrees that protocol was thick to get to this point, but that it was well worth it. She said the support has been strong, and the unanimous decision makes it even more special.
She said the branch is thankful to the city council for approving it.
“They didn’t have to approve it,” she said. “Not only was it voted yes by the city council, but every council member voted yay. That’s awesome.”