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African-American Leadership Awards Celebrate THIRTY YEARS of Excellence and Promise

SPRINGFIELD (MA)—The Springfield Museums are proud to announce the thirtieth annual Ubora Award and Ahadi Youth Award Ceremony, in person, at the Wood Museum of Springfield History, Saturday, September 18, from 6 to 8 pm. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for children 12 and younger. Winners of the 2021 Ubora and Ahadi Youth awards for African Americans with exemplary leadership in Springfield are Robert “Cee” Jackson and Tigist Dawit Terefe. For reservations please visit or phone 413-314-6425.


Thirty years ago, Dr. Ruth Njiiri envisioned an award to recognize excellence within the African-American community in Greater Springfield. Together with the then Springfield Museums African Hall Steering Committee, she crafted a process to evaluate nominations that would single out people of exemplary public service—those who went above and beyond to advance, celebrate, and inspire others in their communities. The long list of stellar Ubora winners who have demonstrated commitment to fields of community service, education, science, humanities, and/or the arts is testament to Dr. Njiiri’s vision.


At this year’s award ceremony, Dr. Njiiri and longtime volunteer Sylvia Humphrey-Spann will be celebrated for their commitment to the African Hall Subcommittee and the recognition of Black leadership in Greater Springfield.


This year is also auspicious because this will be the first year the Ahadi Youth Award will include a cash award. Launched in 2008 to recognize youth in the African-American community with remarkable promise, the awardees have gone on to public service in myriad ways. Inspired by their good works and wanting to help future awardees, the African Hall Subcommittee decided to assemble an endowment to fund a book prize for the award. Longmeadow resident and long-time Springfield Museums volunteer Ann Mann, hearing this call, donated $10,000 to the endowment, as a challenge grant. The Committee is hoping to double this amount by 2022. Those who would like to contribute can do so by calling 413-413-263-6800, ext 254.


“The Springfield Museums are honored to host the Ubora and Ahadi youth awards,” said Kay Simpson, President and CEO of the Springfield Museums. “Over the years, and especially now in a nation much in need of the excellence and promise exemplified by the leadership of Mr. Jackson and Tigist, we are humbled by the remarkable work and dedication represented in these awards and in those who have administered them.”



Robert “Cee” Jackson is best known in Springfield for his remarkable philanthropy. If a child needs a coat, he takes them to the store to choose the one they want. If a family needs a meal, he brings one over. If someone needs help, he provides it. “Robert ‘Cee’ Jackson is a very giving person, always contributing to people in need,” said his nominator Ed Cohen. “He does his work behind the scenes, never looking for any recognition.”


There are so many ways that Jackson contributes to the well-being of his community. Here are just a few samples.


As President of Jackson Security and Jackson Transportation, Jackson employs many community members and negotiates fees to help make his services affordable to all.


As Vice President of the African-American philanthropic organization the Brethren Community Foundation, he helps neighborhood youth with projects such as staging a celebration of Juneteenth that showcased remarkable community talent and providing college scholarships for youth.


Jackson’s community-minded leadership also includes the Urban League Board of Directors and the Springfield Partners for Community Action Board of Directors. In addition, he is an active member and distinguished leader of the Masonic Order.


For decades, Jackson has helped at the Stone Soul Festival which is recognized as one of New England’s largest African-American Festivals, and began in 1989 as a community picnic aimed at gathering together the Mason Square Community.


He was a co-founder of the 5A Football program which is now called Springfield Youth Athletics. Their mission is to provide activities and opportunities for young people, regardless of race, religion or economic status, in the urban Springfield community and surrounding area.


He volunteers with the Old Hill Neighborhood Council, which is dedicated to serving the needs and concerns of community members. And he was appointed in 2008 by Mayor Sarno to serve as a Commissioner of the Community Police Hearing Board.


Jackson was honored by Springfield College in 2019 with their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award. The award recognized Jackson’s dedication to leadership and the ability to create a setting in which the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion is paramount.


And when Jackson was recently recognized for his community work by “I Found Light against All Odds,” he celebrated the honor by handing over a check to help fund their mission to serve the youth of the community. “That is typical Robert ‘Cee’ Jackson,” Cohen wrote.



Tigist Dawit Terefe is a junior at the High School of Science & Technology. She was nominated for the Ahadi Youth Award by her school counselor Amy Quinlan. “Tigist is a student and person who lights up a room,” Quinlan said. “She engages others with such a kind and caring way.” Quinlan added that Terefe meets challenges with creativity and always looks for ways to explore and to grow.


Terefe maintains top grades while also pursuing difficult coursework, including Advance Placement classes. She has taken advantage of Dual Enrollment opportunities with Springfield Technical Community College (STCC) to earn college credits as well as the After Dark Vocational Program with the Putnam Vocational Technical Academy, which allows her to graduate with both her high school diploma and as a Certified Nurse Assistant.


But that is not all. Terefe works part-time at the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute, as an intern in the cancer research lab, and looks forward to going into cancer biomedical research in the future. She participates in the Baystate Educational partnership to expand her insight into the medical world. She is one of the founders of the first-ever Springfield Leadership Advisory Council which will work to connect students of the Springfield public schools with leaders of the district.


Terefe is a member of District Attorney Anthony Gulluni’s Youth Advisory Board, which addresses issues facing today’s teens, researches effective prevention strategies, and works to give youth and residents in the City of Springfield a more powerful voice to make positive change. She is a tutor to other Youth Advisory Board members and she leads the inclusion committee. This committee has created a series of podcasts to give insight on how people could be more inclusive and what they have experienced as students of Hampden County. Topics include racism, LGBTQIA discrimination, cultural and religious inclusivity, sexism, and intersectionality. Readers can access these podcasts on Spotify, Youth Speaks.


“Tigist is future driven,” said Quinlan. “She will continue to make a positive impact on her community!”



True to the Swahili word that comprises its name, the Ubora Award recognizes an adult of African heritage who exemplifies excellence in their commitment to creating a better community through service. In 2020, the Ubora Award was given to Representative Bud Williams.


Named for the Swahili word for promise, the Ahadi Youth Award is presented to a young African American who excels in academics and performs admirable service to the Greater Springfield community. Eligible candidates must be age 19 or younger, live in or have strong ties to the Greater Springfield area, and be currently enrolled in grades 10, 11, or 12. In 2020, the Ahadi Award was given to Kareem Wedderburn.


The African Hall Subcommittee is a volunteer group comprised of educators, business people, and community leaders from the African-American community. The group has administered this annual award since 1992. A full list of the awardees can be found on the Springfield Museums website., One Admission/Five Museums,

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About The Springfield Museums

THE SPRINGFIELD MUSEUMS are located on the Quadrangle at 21 Edwards Street in the heart of downtown Springfield, Massachusetts. The nationally accredited and Smithsonian-affiliated consortium of museums includes the Springfield Science Museum, the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, and the Amazing World of Dr. SeussMuseum, the first and only museum dedicated to the beloved children’s book author and Springfield native.



Tuesday-Saturday: 10 am to 5 pm

Sunday: 11 am to 5 pm


Protocols include

  • Visitors are strongly encouraged to wear a mask on Museums grounds and in all Museums.
  • Masks are required for visitors age 5 and up in all child-centric spaces including the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum, the Seymour Planetarium, the Wild Kratts special exhibit, the Hanmer Museum Store, the Blake House Café, and all facilitated spaces, including Spark!Lab, Art Discovery Center, Science Workshop, and Science Discovery Lab.
  • Students enrolled in youth classes at the Museum School are also required to wear a mask.
  • Advance tickets are strongly encouraged. Please visit the Tickets page.


The Hanmer Museum Store

Tuesday-Saturday: 10 am to 5 pm

Sunday: 11 am to 5 pm


The Blake House Café

Open daily 11 am to 4 pm


For More Information:

Karen Fisk, Director of Marketing and Communication Strategy

413-263-6800, ext. 459