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African-American Leadership Recognized by Springfield Museums

SPRINGFIELD (MA)—The Springfield Museums announce the annual Ubora Award and Ahadi Youth Award winners.


Now in its 30th year of celebrating leadership by people of African heritage, the Ubora Award honors Robert Cee Jackson as an exemplary philanthropist and humanitarian.


Upon hearing of the award on a video call, Jackson said:


“This is such an unexpected surprise. I am honored to be the recipient of the 30th Ubora Award. The volunteer service that I do is because of my commitment to and love for my community. This is a prestigious award and I am humbled and grateful to the African Hall Committee, Springfield Museums, and all involved in this honor.”


An indicator of his dedication to service, he almost missed hearing about his award because he was helping to wrap up another day volunteering at a community vaccine clinic, African Hall Committee members reported.


The 12th Ahadi Youth Award honors the remarkable energy and intent of Tigist Dawit Terefe. Also surprised with the news on a video call that was supposed to be with her school counselor, Terefe said:


“I am overjoyed to have received the Ahadi Award. I have always found people with an interest in their community impressive, and have worked in my academic ventures to do the same. I love working on topics of equity and inclusivity in the Springfield community, and generally. I thank the committee for selecting me, and I thank my guidance counselor, Ms. Quinlan, for nominating me. I hope I represent the award well throughout and after my high school career.”


The Ubora Award and the Ahadi Youth Award—conferred by the African Hall Committee annually—are awarded to African Americans from Greater Springfield who have—above and beyond—demonstrated commitment to fields of community service, education, science, humanities, and/or the arts.


The Award Ceremony will be held in the fall, with more information to follow.



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 the 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 Gullani’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 member 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. Seuss Museum, the first and only museum dedicated to the beloved children’s book author and Springfield native.