The fourth annual Henry Johnson Award for Distinguished Community Service was given Thursday in Albany.
A small crowd gathered in the pouring rain at the pocket park named after Albany's World War I hero to witness community organizer and social justice advocate Amy Jones receive the award.
One of the people who nominated Jones wrote, “She has given of herself mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially time and time again to see to the safety and freedom of those the world neglects.”
Jones has done this as someone who was sexually trafficked, battled addiction and spent time behind bars.
Jones says she focuses her efforts on people who are often overlooked and underserved, including women of color and marginalized genders, and those released from incarceration or who have been sexually abused or suffered from domestic violence.
"I did not invent mutual aid. Mutual aid is tribal, it is ancestral. It is something that we have always done as marginalized people, as people of color. We've always taken half of what we've had and given it to our neighbor. It is what we do it is who we are. Albany, if you wanna stop violence, give people the things that they need. Poverty is the number one driver of violence. If you want this violence to stop, give people the things that they need. I am deeply, deeply honored to receive this award."
Henry Johnson served in the all-Black 369th Infantry Regiment, the Harlem Hellfighters. He was finally honored with a Medal of Honor in 2015 for his act of valor in France. While there in 1918, Johnson suffered 21 wounds, rescuing a fellow soldier while singlehandedly repelling an enemy raid and receiving the French military’s highest recognition, the Croix de Guerre.
Ronald Wilson, president of the Albany District of the 369th Veterans Association, says America turned its back on Johnson after the soldier spoke out against racism and prejudice at a Liberty Bond rally.
"...and the Army prevented him from speaking in public or even wearing his uniform publicly. Sgt. Johnson couldn't even find work. His marriage fell apart and not much is known about this part of his life. In his mid-30's he died, estranged from his wife, and he was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery."
"It hurts me deeply that Sgt. Henry Johnson died the way that he did, without honor, without the things that he needed, without being in a relationship with his family because he didn't have the things that he needed, the resources, and traction. and all I believe is that we need to give people the things that they need," said Jones.