SPRINGFIELD — The African Hall Committee of the Springfield Museums announced the recipients of the 2023 Ubora Award and Ahadi Youth Award, which will be presented at a ceremony at the museums on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 6 p.m.
Lisa Green, a distinguished professor at UMass Massachusetts Amherst, is this year’s Ubora Award recipient, and Catherine Thompson, a 2023 graduate of Springfield Central High School who is headed to Johns Hopkins University, was chosen for the Ahadi Youth Award.
Named for the Swahili word meaning ‘excellence,’ the Ubora Award has been awarded annually since 1992 to an African-American adult who has demonstrated a commitment to Greater Springfield and has exhibited excellence in the fields of community service, education, science, humanities, or the arts.
Green is an expert in syntax and African-American English (AAE). She founded the Center for the Study of African American Language at UMass in 2006 and has directed it ever since. She is also the author of two books and is working on a third, all published by Cambridge University Press.
She as passionate about community service as she is about her academic specialty, according to Joe Pater, chair of the UMass Linguistics department, who nominated her for the award. She is an active volunteer and mentor with the Greater Springfield Chapter of Links Inc., the Western Massachusetts Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, and the Xi Xi Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. And since 1996, she has been running a children’s summer reading program that she started at a church in her hometown of Lake Arthur, La.
“I could not believe that I had been selected” for the Ubora Award, Green said, “especially because I was very familiar with a number of previous recipients and simply could not see myself even approaching being in such amazing company. It is an incredible honor.”
Thompson had a similar reaction to her selection as the Ahadi Youth Award recipient, given since 2009 to an African-American student (age 19 or younger) who embodies the Swahili word for ‘promise’ and excels both in academics and service to the Greater Springfield community.
“When I heard the news, I was amazed, joyful, and honored to have been chosen as the recipient among Springfield youth,” she said. “I am proud to say I was born and raised in Springfield. I am still beyond grateful to be recognized at this level.”
An outstanding student who graduated sixth in her class, Thompson is also passionate about community service, especially with regard to social justice. For instance, at the Pioneer Valley Project, she worked on getting teens to pre-register to vote; as a teen-advocacy board member for Girls Inc. of the Valley, she attempted to increase awareness of racial justice, mental health, equal rights, and sexual- and domestic-violence issues. She was also actively involved in myriad clubs and organizations throughout high school, including the Key Club, the National Honor Society, student government, and the varsity tennis and soccer teams, to name a few.
“Catherine’s drive to learn and master things is strong and powerful and comes from within,” said guidance counselor John Szymczyk, who nominated her. “She has repeatedly demonstrated the depth of her maturity, which in turn has strengthened her own moral commitment as it relates to social justice. Her eyes are wide open; she’s aware and sharp, bright and interested in the world.”
The African Hall Committee of the Springfield Museums is a volunteer group comprising educators, businesspeople, and leaders from the Black community. In 2022, the recipients of the Ubora Award were Dr. Gerald Cutting and Carol Moore Cutting, and Kayla Staley was the recipient of the Ahadi Youth Award.
Sponsored by Baystate Health and the Urban League of Springfield, the 2023 Ubora and Ahadi Awards ceremony is open to the public. Click here for tickets ($20 per person, $15 for children under 12), or to make a donation to the Ahadi Scholarship Fund.