Riverside NAACP Celebrates in Spirit of “Woodie” Rucker Hughes
By Dianne Anderson
Organizers of the annual Riverside Chapter NAACP are following in the spirit of their greatly missed president Waudier Rucker Hughes, paying tribute this month to a few of her favorite things.
Under the themed mantra of Ms. Rucker Hughes, “Never Let it Rest… Until the Good is Better and the Better is Best,” friends and supporters are gathering to recognize the qualities of devotion, “Woodie” style.
“She loved creole food, she loved the whole Madi Gras. We’re going to have New Orleans music and a New Orleans menu,” said Dr. Regina Patton-Stell, president of the Riverside branch NAACP. The event also features local students, who will perform the Second Line in her honor.
On Thursday, May 23, the Riverside NAACP Freedom Fund Celebration takes place amid the backdrop of a French Quarter tradition. The dinner and program event will be held at the Riverside Convention Center located at 3637 Fifth Street. Check-in is at 5:15 p.m.
Ms. Rucker Hughes, who passed away last year, was raised through the political storms of the early ’60s of Washington D.C. She always forged a social justice path from her own lifelong commitment to civil rights. That included everything from fighting for equal education access for kids to the fight for fair treatment by utility companies to help disadvantaged communities. One of her last fights was helping low-income customers to gain greater access to resources.
In 2018, Ms. Rucker Hughes was one of ten statewide advocates 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 wanted to be the voice of the community hit hardest with pollution, and that funding would be accessible and equitable, especially for disabled minority groups in accessing energy products or utilities.
She spoke of hearing many complaints of those who had to wait days to get their services turned back on, even after they paid their bill.
“When someone is disabled with known dependencies on electric or gas because of illness, we have to figure out another way [for the companies] to get their money. They need to have more compassion,” Ms. Rucker-Hughes told the Precinct Reporter last March after her appointment.
Dr. Patton-Stell said honorees selected this year reflect the heart of Ms. Rucker Hughes, and her passion to champion social justice issues.
“She was very passionate in many areas that many of us in the African American community don’t even think about as far as empowerment – or lack thereof – especially [of] consumer value of the black community that has been ignored,” she said.
She said Ms. Rucker Hughes interests were broad and varied in so many areas of civil rights. She was determined to take on the good fight, an inspiring force for change.
“It was a lifetime commitment, her greatest mission. She would always say Regina once you know the truth, you have to speak truth to power. You have to be bold and speak up,” she said.
She said they are excited about honoring a great breakout of dedicated community advocates and leaders. Among them, Judge Jacqueline Jackson and Lillian Harper are honored with Presidential Awards. Also recognized are Pepi Jackson of the Riverside County Black Chamber of Commerce; Eugenia Vincent, Dean of Student Services, Moreno Valley College; Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship and Al Zelinka, Riverside City Manager.
Other honorees include Dr. Claudia Davis, Interim Chair, Health Science/Human Ecology, CSUSB; and Vonya Quarles, Esq. of Starting Over Inc. Jerry Green, Southern CA Black Business Expo; and Dr. Deborah Deas, Dean, UC Riverside, School of Medicine; Altie Holcomb, Captain, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.), Dr. E. M. Abdulmumin and Dior Cotton.
The selection process always entails the same pointed attention to detail about what makes a person worthy of the award, she said.
They need only look to their past president as the core metric.
“What have they done? We start calling around, do they stand up for the underdog?” She said. “When you start hearing the kinds of things she stood for, you know you have a match. We want that spirit here in Riverside County.”