Today Media, DSU announce inaugural Mitchell Award honorees

DOVER, Del. – Delaware State University, Delaware Business Times, and Delaware Today are
excited to announce the inaugural class of Mitchell Award honorees – recognizing individuals in
the First State who have demonstrated leadership and success in the important areas of Diversity,
Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice.
Named for the late Delaware civil rights pioneers Littleton and Jane Mitchell, the Mitchell
Awards showcase those who are championing efforts to educate, inspire and impact communities
across the state in an effort to improve opportunities for all, regardless of their race, abilities or
The inaugural class of awardees include two alumni of Delaware State University – Reba
Hollingsworth, Class of 1949, and State Rep. Nnamdi Chukwuocha, Class of 1999 and 2006
(who is being honored with his brother Al Mills, largely for their work as the Twin Poets).
The late Mitchells had a long history in working for equal rights in Delaware through a difficult
period in the state’s history, including on the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that
desegregated all American schools.
“When we envisioned the Mitchell Awards, we aimed to honor the often-unheralded work being
done around our state to improve the lives of people from all walks of life. I’m proud of the class
that our partners at Delaware State University have chosen to help us do that,” said Jacob Owens,
editor of Delaware Business Times and an organizer of the program.
The annual awards program will recognize a handful of advocates with coverage in November
editions of Delaware Business Times and Delaware Today (entities of Today Media). They will
also be honored at a special Nov. 9 event at the Christiana Hilton that will feature an awards
presentation and a keynote speaker.
Mitchell Awards Committee officials chose the final honorees after receiving input from the
community. DSU students will aid the publications in the creation of the coverage and
supporting materials.

“Once again, our country is at a crossroads in our quest for equality and social equity,” said Dr.
Devona Williams, DSU Board of Trustees member and Mitchell Award Committee member.
“With so many competing and conflicting voices, it is important to recognize that the core of our
free society rests on ensuring the civil rights of all citizens. For Delaware, the Mitchell awards
recognize the efforts of leaders who have gone the extra mile to create opportunities for all
The 2023 honorees include:

Reba Hollingsworth
Growing up in a segregated Delaware, Reba Hollingsworth was forced to leave home at age 15
to earn a high school diploma and college degree. She would spend a lifetime in public
education, and become a leader for the Delaware Heritage Commission, the state NAACP, and
the African American Historical Society. Hollingsworth, one of the foremost authorities in the
state on parliamentary law, was inducted into the Delaware Women’s Hall of Fame in 2018.
“Reba Hollingsworth is an iconic teacher, civil rights leader, and community advocate in
Delaware. Her life has been one of sacrifice and service against tremendous odds, and her
contributions to Black advancement have been emblematic of a life well-lived. What’s more,
she has yet to slow down and, at 96, continues to give of her time and talent in a way that should
inspire us all,” the Awards Committee wrote.

Fayetta Blake
The founder and executive director of Pathways to Success, a Georgetown-based nonprofit that
helps at-risk children to finish their education and become career-ready, Fayetta Blake first led a
barrier-breaking career in financial services. She founded Pathways to Success in 2006, and its
accomplishments have earned her numerous accolades, including induction into the Delaware
Women’s Hall of Fame in 2020.
“Fay Blake is a multi-sector leader who has used her considerable business acumen to enhance
global citizenship in the corporate boardroom and the grassroots community. She founded the
Pathways to Success program, which utilizes innovative and creative approaches in mentoring
and education to help individuals develop to be healthy, productive, contributing, and
responsible citizens. She is a force to be reckoned with in Sussex County and an exceptional
example of a leader focused on access and opportunity with notable returns on investment,” the
Awards Committee wrote.

Sheila Bravo
The president and CEO of the Delaware Alliance for Nonprofit Advancement (DANA), Sheila
Bravo has spearheaded support for organizations statewide that push for greater DEI&J
representation. Her early career included advertising and brand development, but she transitioned
to nonprofits after leading the Rehoboth Art League and today is one of the most vocal leaders in
the community.
“Sheila Bravo leads the largest nonprofit association in Delaware and among the largest in the
United States. She is a fierce advocate for all nonprofit organizations but has distinguished
herself and DANA by focusing on community-based organizations that advance equity and
fairness throughout Delaware communities,” the Awards Committee wrote.
The Twin Poets (Nnamdi Chukwuocha & Al Mills)
Brothers Nnamdi Chukwuocha and Al Mills are also known as The Twin Poets, a spoken word
duo that has earned acclaim as the state’s former poet laureates who have performed at the
Delaware Humanities Forum, the Walt Whitman Arts Center, the HBO Def Poetry national and
international tours, and at the Philadelphia Art Museum. Their poems have given a voice to
Wilmington’s residents and brought recognition to the city’s arts.
“It is hard to describe the notable impact of the Twin Poets in Delaware, but we consider them
the voice of a generation. Their lyrical exhibitions have told the story of under-resourced
communities and schools in Delaware and have inspired countless activists for over 30 years.
They are artists, but they are also notable public servants. Their 2015 appointment as Delaware’s
Poet Laureates was historic but symbolic of their life’s work – art as a tool for social change,” the
Awards Committee wrote.

Drew Fennell & Lisa Goodman
Drew Fennell and Lisa Goodman were the first couple to be joined in a civil union in Delaware
in 2012, and the moment was a culmination of a lifetime of work by the two women for the civil
rights and representation of the LGTBQ+ community in the First State. Fennell, a former leader
of the state American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter and a chief of staff to former Gov.
Jack Markell, and Goodman, a leader of Equality Delaware, advocated for the passage of the
civil union law that led to today’s gay marriage law.
“Drew and Lisa are among the most iconic power couples in Delaware. Both practicing lawyers,
they worked for decades to expand civil liberties for all and have challenged the courts and the
legislature in ways that have dramatically expanded the legal protections for the otherwise
disenfranchised. Their work on gay marriage is one example, but it is only one. Drew’s work at
the ACLU of Delaware was wide-ranging and focused on racial profiling, workplace
discrimination, redlining, and much more. As chair of the Delaware State Advisory Committee
to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and founding president of Equality Delaware, Lisa
remains a no-nonsense advocate in Delaware’s legislative hall,” the Awards Committee wrote.

Ernesto “Ernie” Lopez
Retired Republican State Sen. Ernesto “Ernie” Lopez made history as the first Hispanic
American to serve in Delaware’s upper chamber when he was elected in 2012, serving for a
decade. Among his legislative accomplishments: a state Constitutional Amendment to enshrine
protection against discrimination based on race, color, and national origin as a fundamental right,
and opening medical marijuana treatment to epileptic children.
“Senator Lopez was a legislator who gave voice to his constituents and the broader Delaware
Hispanic community. He served with distinction during his time with the legislature and was
never afraid to cross the aisle. He believes in institutions that create equitable access to
opportunity and has never taken for granted his personal story and its importance to so many
throughout our community,” the Awards Committee wrote.

Categories: Announcement, Campus News

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