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NAACP Celebrates Citizen of the Year Awards

Donna Pride sings "Wind Beneath My Wings" to Local Colors founder Pearl Fu.

by Valerie Garner

“Celebrating Diversity” was this year’s theme for the 13th Annual Citizen of the Year Awards banquet at the Holiday Inn Tanglewood last Friday evening. The festivities began 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, a festival 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.”

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.

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 his 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 both grow tobacco,” 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– she appeared as Asian women with different hairdos and clothing. It worked, she said, because “you know all of us look alike.” Humor is her trademark and a necessity, she adds.

Pearl closed by having everyone sing “It’s a Small World.” Donna Pride sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” to Pearl. Brenda Hale said of Pearl, “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.


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