Ten local leaders honored during Black History Month

The Black History Image and Heritage Awards hosted by New Life Ministries of Tulare County celebrates ten local leaders

TULARE – In the midst of Black History Month, New Life Ministries of Tulare County will hold an awards event to celebrate local legends.

On Feb. 18, ten local leaders within the community will be honored at the Black History Image and Heritage Awards hosted by New Life Ministries of Tulare County. The ten honorees will be recognized for their countless hours of service to the community in areas such as education, medical health, mentorship, business, public works, athletics and spiritual stewardship. The event not only celebrates Black History of the past, but also the current history in the making. 

The event will take place at 12 p.m. at the Activity Building 1820 North Gem Street in Tulare. New Life Ministries invites the community to attend the event and enjoy food and entertainment from violinist Will Roberson. For more information visit New Life Ministries website, nlmtc.com, email [email protected], or call 559-361-8176.

The honorees will be as follows:

Rev. C.L. Hutchinson

Rev. Hutchinson has been blessed with 91 years of life and good health and is the oldest living black pastor in Tulare County, possibly the state of California. He was born in 1932 and has lived in Tulare since 1942. At the age of 15 Hutchison was saved and in 1960 Rev. Hutchinson founded the House of Love Church where he has pastored for the past 63 years. 

Hutchison and his wife Savannah have served their community most notably through raising numerous foster children into their adulthood. In addition to the foster children as well as their own biological children, the two also took legal guardianship of four additional children and adopted two more children in 2019. Rev. Hutchinson’s favorite scriptures is Philippians 3:14 “I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Rev. Donahue Green (Late)

Pastor Donahue Green was a servant leader and received great joy from helping people. He was generous with his time, counsel and his wisdom. In 1980, he founded and pastored Living Christ Church, which was the largest congregation of African Americans in Tulare. Through his sacrifice, he paved the way for other pastors to plant and grow his church. 

His amazing love for God helped him know he was called to be a “fisher of men,” and it was his heart’s desire to serve and please the Lord. He loved his family, and they knew he was called to make sacrifices that few would to help build a larger kingdom family. He was married to the love of his life, Yvonne Love Green for 56 years.

Opal Holland

At 90 years old, Opal Holland’s life of service and connection can be summarized as nothing less than extraordinary. Holland was born in the 1930’s and she did not let her racial experiences cloud her inept ability to connect to people regardless of racial and socioeconomic class. Her work in the community and church community is one covered with love and directness. She has mentored and mother hundreds of women in the church and community. Her professional work at Bank of America was full of many firsts and  her coming face to face with racial differences and challenging social norms. All at the same time as crossing multicultural boundaries and bridging gaps with the love of Christ.

Holland is most known for leading large youth groups and choirs filled with church children throughout the state. She also led countless prayer groups, women’s ministry and youth choir. Her life service has been spent in the AME church for over 50 years. She also pastored alongside her late husband Rev Grady Holland for 40 years. She is as unique as the gem in which her name bears.

Buddy Jones

Buddy Jones has a storied career not only in the Tulare County community, but throughout the Sequoias and even areas of Africa. Some know local artist Buddy Jones for his drum circles, others know him for his wood art, and yet, even more know him as the man who sends loads of rice to the village of Oroko, Africa through fundraising. 

Jones is a jack of all trades, too. He has had his hands in art, advocacy, the contracting business, a National Parks touring service, and so much more. His business, Buddy Jones Contracting, was one of few highly recognized Black-owned businesses working for the local national parks. Jones championed environmental activism and was involved in multiple community-building organizations and events in the Visalia area. He was even part of the Boys & Girls Club of Tulare, the Tulare Rotary Club and the California Black Chamber of Commerce.

Jones also founded “Buddy Jones & Friends,” which is an organization that seeks to bring cultural diversity and activism. The organization hosts activities such as West African drumming, construction, wood art, storytelling, food and African American history. It’s for all ages, especially youth in culture and art.

This isn’t the first time Jones has been honored for his boundless service to the community. Last November, Jones also received the Marjorie Brandon Award. This award is given every year to honor local artists who go above and beyond to benefit the community.

Clarence Organs

Clarence Ogans along with his wife Geraldine, founded Pioneer Home Outreach Inc., a Black owned and operated group home and foster care agency. Under the umbrella of his group home, they created programs to help address behavior development needs, disability obstacles and psycho-social issues within troubled youth. This had earned Organs the reputation that he was willing to take on the toughest cases in the entire state of California. 

Although he earned his bachelor’s degree from University of San Francisco and a master’s degree from California State Dominguez Hills, Organs felt that his life experiences of being a Vietnam War Veteran, family upbringing and faith in God had ultimately prepared him for life’s mission and journey.  

He also has heavily assisted in the multi-million dollar special project for the Allensworth cemetery restoration.

James Banks

James Banks serves as the president of the Allensworth Education Foundation. Allensworth is the first town in California established exclusively by African Americans. In 1908 Allensworth was established by Colonel Allen Allensworth and other families. Today the town is a State National Park and Banks is  responsible for continuing the legacy of Allensworth through the work of the Allensworth’s Project. It ensures the park receives funding to continue the advancement of the park’s technology. The goal is to keep the rural and isolated community connected, as it has for the past 20 years.

Tyrone Watley

Tyrone Watley was an expectational football athlete who earned a scholarship to play at Idaho University after playing at COS. There he earned his bachelor’s degree. After marrying the love of his life, Lucretia, they started a family and Watley started teaching at Tulare Western High School. 

He became the first Black head coach and during his tenure he accumulated the most wins as a head coach in Tulare Western history. This is where Watley built his legacy and would have his greatest impact on the community. He was not only a football coach but a father figure to hundreds of young men. He influenced hundreds of young men to attend college, some of which earned a college scholarship, others who went on to play professionally.

James Stallworth

James Stallworth, a Tulare Union alumni, currently holds the National Federation High School record for the long jump, with a jump of 8.04 meters (26 feet 4 3/4 inches). That was set while winning the California Interscholastic Federation(CIF) California State High School Championship on June 3, 1989, which was a 34 year record.

According to worldathletics.org, in 1990 he won the USATF Junior Championships in 1990, setting a still standing meet record of 8.20 meter (26 feet 9 3/4 inches) which qualified him for the US International team. He is a two time World Athletics U20 champion and a one time World Athletic U20 Bronze medalist. In 1991, as a 20-year-old, he placed second behind Mike Powell world record holder in the United States Olympic Festival in the long jump. 

After a 9-year absence from competition, 29-year-old Stallworth decided to return to competition in 2000 with an eye on making the US Olympic team. He achieved a 7.93 meter (26 feet 1/4 inches) long jump in a local championship in Long Beach.

Dr. Mylene Rucker

Dr. Mylene Rucker is the founder of Sister Friend non-profit. She has also followed in her fathers footsteps who was pharmacist as she completed her father’s work in operating the family owned medical clinic.  Rucker also sacrificed part of her practice to provide much needed pro-bono work for many patients who were without insurance. She volunteered her medical services at the Riot Zone during the LA Riots in 1992 and volunteered in Hatti during the earthquake aftermath in 2010. 

Rucker earned her bachelor’s degree in zoology from Washington University, a master’s degree in Public Health from University of California Los Angeles, medical doctorate degree from University of California Irvine.

Flora Johnson

Flora Johnson grew up with a passion to educate people, especially children. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Fresno State in 1976, she began her career as a preschool teacher at Lincoln Elementary School. She then continued her career in the Oakland School District for 31 years serving her last 10 years as a principal before retiring. 

Johnson then returned to Tulare where in 2007 she opened Grandma’s House. A company she founded which serves as an after school sanctuary helping hundreds of students with school work. It also serves as a mentorship that guides students to a successful path in life. In 2021, Johnson was also awarded Women of the Year from California Assembly man Devon Mathis.

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