Donna Pride sings "Wind Beneath My Wings" to Pearl Fu
“Celebrating Diversity” was this year’s theme for the 13th Annual Citizen of the Year Awards banquet at the Holiday Inn Tanglewood Friday evening. The festivities started with a reception and ended with dancing the electric slide.
Joy Sutton formerly with WDBJ and now marketing communication manager for HCA was the master of ceremonies. Brenda Hale president of the Roanoke Branch of the NAACP handed out the awards.
Dragon Pearl, better known as Pearl Fu founder of Local Colors was the guest speaker. In 2010 the Library of Virginia honored Pearl as “one of ten outstanding immigrants” in Virginia’s 400 years of history.
She approached perfect strangers to recruit for Local Colors that started with only four countries. Her tenacity has expanded the event to 75 countries participating today. Pearl said, “I would just tap people on the shoulder and ask them where they are from.” They were all willing to tell her.
Pearl advocates for victims of discrimination that have at times resulted in threats to her life. She says her “mission is to spread goodwill to people of diverse origin, race, religion and creed and promote multiculturalism by sharing and learning.”
“Fear and hatred can be replaced by peace and friendship,” said Pearl.
Pearl was a minority in her native land of China. There are over fifty tribes in the country and her “YI” tribe was in a three-percent minority. At the age of nine Pearl’s family moved to Hong Kong where she finished high school.
Sen. Edwards, Andy Schmookler, Rev. Carl Tinsley
Pearl’s grandfather risked his life in the 1950s by announcing that China should befriend America. He was stripped of his position as a national Vice-President and disgraced. He has since been honored posthumously as a national hero for is valiant policy stance.
After immigrating to the United States Pearl initiated a search for a Chinese sister city. She chose Lijiang a diverse city in Yunnan that means “beautiful river.” The city has minority tribes one of which is her “YI” tribe. Virginia and Yunnan are both tobacco states she said. Virginia’s famous Smithfield Ham tastes just like Yunnan’s famous ham. She tells her relatives, “If you want to taste real Yunnan ham, come to Virginia.”
She has even had a showbiz career making screen appearances in “Crazy People” as Dudley Moore’s secretary and in “What About Bob” with Bill Murray appearing as an Asian woman with different hairdos and clothing. She said because “you know all of us look alike.” Humor is her trademark and a necessity she claims.
Pearl closed by having everyone sing “It’s a Small World.” Donna Pride sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” to Pearl. Brenda Hale said, “she was her sister and her hero.”
Awards: Art – Judi Jackson Vocal Artist, Business – Greg Addison of Hair Attitudes Salon, Corporate – Freedom First Credit Union, Education – Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Roanoke Chapter, Education Youth – Birdie Trotter, Humanitarian – Cyrus Pace of the Jefferson Center, Media – Janelle Rucker Journalist, Medicine – Dr. Thomas Fame, Religion – Rev Amy Christine Hodge Ziglar, Lifetime Achievement – Dr. Melva Belcher, Service to the Nation – Colonel Edward R. Gunn USA Retired, Rev. R.R. Wilkinson Memorial Award for Social Justice – Ms. V. Mignon Chubb-Hale.
Posted By Valerie Garner
Categories: Community, Local Events
Tags: awards, black_history