On Feb. 1, Common Council awarded Kenneth Glover, the residence hall director in the Schuyler House and former Ujamaa housing director, this year’s J. Diann Sams Award, for his “outstanding leadership, courage against unspeakable odds and an unwavering vision” in the City of Ithaca, according to a resolution passed by the council.
The J. Diann Sams award — presented annually since 2004 — is awarded in February, or Black History Month, to honor “an individual in our community of great esteem and stellar leadership,” Alderperson J.R. Clairborne (D-2nd Ward) said.
Glover has held small group meetings and forums regularly, including the “locally famed” Unity Hour at Ujamaa, to address community concerns such as youth violence, drug-abuse intervention and the education achievement gap, Clairborne said.
One of Sams’ sons, Ithaca Police Officer Jack Bradley Nelson, helped present the award.
“I am honored to know that Ken is receiving this award,” Nelson said.
Nelson then addressed the council, encouraging it to “keep this award going.”
“Keep it alive. It’s necessary,” Nelson said. He also emphasized the importance of the award in encouraging leadership and courage from African Americans in the community.
In its statement naming Glover the recipient of the award, the nominating committee said many community members believe that Glover can “bring meaningful attention to matters that affect their lives.”
“Glover’s commitment to service to this community stretches back over 20 years,” Clairborne said, adding that Glover headed Ujamaa Residential College, a program house on North Campus that celebrates the rich and diverse history of peoples of African descent, at Cornell for the majority of those years.
During his time as residential director, Glover ensured that residents of Ujamaa were involved in the Ithaca community through tutoring, volunteering and participating with local charities such as the Ithaca Youth Bureau’s Big Brother Big Sister organization and the Southside Community Center, Clairborne said.
Clairborne also said that Glover helped bring Ithaca youth to Cornell, on tours to East Coast colleges and on visits with elected dignitaries.
“I think [Glover has] done a great job helping to connect and bridge the gap between Cornell and the Ithaca community,” Alderperson Eddie Rooker ’09 (D-4th Ward) said. “Having been a Cornell student, I know a number of people who have been personally impacted [by his work].”
One of Glover’s greatest accomplishments in recent memory was his quick organization of a trip to see the inauguration of President Obama, Clairborne said.
“He pulled together the people and the resources to make that happen,” Clairborne said.
Glover was also actively involved in the debate over the decision to fold the Africana Research and Studies Center into the College of Arts and Sciences.
He participated in protests and spoke out against members of the Cornell administration for interfering with Africana, accusing some administrators of racist actions in their decision to limit the center’s independence without consulting its staff and faculty. Glover, along with many other protesters, characterized this as an action of white supremacy and institutional racism.
However, some said Glover’s ability to stand up for his beliefs and evoke others to action were two of his greatest assets.
“He’s one of those people where when he … holds a meeting and there’s an issue that he’s working to address, people listen,” Rooker said.