The fact that their plaque literally overlooks Ithaca’s Common Council was an intentional metaphor. Each name represents a different approach, perspective or mission, but they all have one thing in common. The award states that each fought “for social justice and change, racial equity, and fairness in the judicial and educational systems.”
The newest name to be added is that of IC’s Dr. Sean Eversley Bradwell, who last week received the 2020 J. Diann Sams African American History Month Award. Bradwell, an assistant professor in the Department of Education, said he’s honored not just to be recognized with those former winners, but to be in some ways a product of them.
Just off of the top of his head, he rattled off the names of a dozen past recipients, almost all of whom have been mentors in one way or another. Several were even in attendance in the council chamber as Bradwell was recognized at City Hall.
“I'm humbled to be mentioned in the same vein as any number of them. They're all giants in our community. I was blessed to have taken classes as a TA for Dr. James Turner at Cornell.” He said educators Denise Lee and Millie Clarke Maynard took him under their wings in the Ithaca City School District. Now its vice president, he is serving his fourth term on ICSD’S Board of Education. He listed other recipients as friends and community partners.
“Almost all of them have been mentors. So that's what makes the award even more humbling, to even think that I would be anywhere in the same realm as their work and their mission.”
Even the namesake for the award, J. Diann Sams, had a role in his career.
“I was young when I moved to Ithaca, and Diann was clear to set me on my path,” he told the council and a standing-room-only audience. “She let me know how to fight for justice and that what you believe in may not always be the most well received but that shouldn't stop you if you believe it's in the best interest of the community and particularly in the best interest of young people.”