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Two Honored With NAACP Peace Awards

Janet Haynes, UMD Chancellor Lendley C. (Lynn) Black, and Mary Cameron. Behind them are larger-than-life puppets of Gandhi, Rosa Parks, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mary Cameron, associate director, Department of Human Resources, and Dr. Janet Haynes, assistant professor, Department of Social Work, received Drum Major for Peace Awards from the Duluth Chapter of the NAACP at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at the DECC on Jan. 17, 2011.

Mary Cameron, a native Mississippian, credits her parents with instilling in her the value of education and hard work. One of her mentors was Cleo Breeze, the first African American high school teacher in Duluth who taught at Central High School. In her acceptance speech, Cameron spoke of those who had mentored her, adding, "It's important for us to pass the torch on to the young people."

Cameron has a BA from UMD, a master's of social work from UMD, and an MA in public administration from Syracuse University. She is currently working on her doctorate in organizational leadership and policy development. As a single parent, she raised three children. She became active in the civil rights movement at the age of 13. Cameron is an active member of the NAACP and serves on the executive committee. She is currently serving her fourth term as an elected official in Independent School District 709 as a school board member.

Sharon Witherspoon, who presented the award, said of Cameron, "When she's called upon, she comes out and she serves. She is a very, very, very compassionate person. She is caring, and she means what she says and she says what she means."

Janet Haynes is an international scholar who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and immigrated to Canada in 1977. Thirty years later, she came to Duluth and is a faculty member in the Masters of Social Work Program at UMD.

Haynes had her first child when she was 14 and her second at age 16. At age 17, she married the father of her two children and immigrated to Canada. At age 19, she had her third child and her fourth child at the age of 30. She also helped to guide and parent two other children. Haynes was determined that her children would not become societal statistics, so she began to educate herself in order to fill the educational gaps that were created by the school they attended. She discovered educational inequality when her eldest child first began kindergarten in Canada. She challenged the system and ensured that her children were not subjected to negative streaming. All of her children attended higher learning institutions, including her eldest son, Chris, who went on to attend Dartmouth Collge.

In 1996, she became the first student in the history of Carlton University to complete a four-year honor program in two years, and she graduated with the highest honors. She attended graduate school at McGill University, the oldest and most prestigious university in Canada. There she completed two graduate degrees: one in social work, the other in education, and also earned her Ph.D.

Haynes became an expert in race and culture and later guided her son to become the first student to successfully take the school board to court for educational racism. Later she created an educational equity office, designed to address issues of racism in the school system. Her goal was to ensure that the board be accountable for the racism that non-white students experienced within their schools. She is known for her role as an educational and child protection advocate.

Claudie Washington, the President of the Duluth Chapter of the NAACP who presented the award to Haynes, said, "I've seen her at every event where the community and where the youth was involved and there. I've seen her commitment to the change that is necessary in our communities."

To UMD students, Haynes says "Despite the struggles and barriers that you may face in your life - 1. Do not allow those challenges to become the blueprint of your future - instead, you must stay focused and rise above those barriers and challenges in order to achieve your full potential; 2. Do not let others define who you are; 3. Do not let the place you fall become your permanent resting place - get up and keep moving!"

To view videos of presentations and performances from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day March and Rally in Duluth, visit

Written by Cheryl Reitan and Kathleen McQuillan-Hofmann.

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