BOSTON — Pittsfield's Manny and Vannessa Slaughter were honored by the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus on Tuesday with a 2020 Black Excellence on the Hill award during a statehouse ceremony, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier announced Wednesday.
The caucus celebrates Black History month and the leaders who make Bay State communities thrive. The Black Excellence on the Hill Award is presented to local leaders, nominated by their state legislators, for their work in civic engagement, education, business and other fields.
The Slaughters are longtime Pittsfield residents who always have abided by the notion of service to community, said Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, in a statement.
"The Slaughters' longstanding service to the youth in the community make them perfect award recipients. We were thrilled to honor them today at the statehouse," said Farley-Bouvier.
In 1997, Vannessa Slaughter started a summer dance program for her daughter, Nya, and her friends. The program was a success, and the Slaughters saw that this could be a way to get neighborhood kids involved in positive activities.
So began a free summer camp that the Slaughters operated for over two decades in Pittsfield's Westside neighborhood. The couple paid for the program on their own, and Vannessa Slaughter sought grants to acquire additional support to keep it going. Through the camp, Westside youth saw Broadway shows, and took trips to the Bronx Zoo and Fenway Park.
In later years, the camp transitioned to the Marilyn Hamilton Sports and Literacy Camp, providing young people — about 100 each summer — with activities that were fun and literacy-focused, done in partnership with such local organizations such as the Berkshire United Way.
"The focus is children. I believe that they will always be the focus, and we just always need to remember that," said Vannessa Slaughter.
Through their model of service, the Slaughters have changed countless lives and inspired young people, many of who came from under-served backgrounds, to always aim high and do their very best, Farley-Bouvier said.
"It is a joy and a pleasure to be part of service work. The seed was planted in us that someone has to represent the unrepresented," said Manny Slaughter.
In 2018, the Slaughters announced their departure from the camp, for which they were honored and celebrated.
However, their work in the community still continues. Manny Slaughter organizes a yearly Valentine's Day scholarship fundraiser as part of St. John's Lodge No. 10 to support the aspirations of young people. As members of Price Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, situated in the heart of the Westside, the Slaughters continue to be accessible and are always ready to serve, Farley-Bouvier said.
Established in 1973, the mission of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus is to identify, highlight and analyze issues and concerns affecting people of color in the commonwealth.
Learn more about the caucus at http://www.mablacklatinocaucus.com/.