Eighty-seven-year-old Malinda Myers — YWCA volunteer, community activist, retired city worker and church singer — does not think of herself as anyone special.
“I have never looked for honors. What I do, I do because it’s right. The Lord wants me to do it,” she said.
The YWCA board decided to honor her anyway by bestowing its 2008 “Unsung Heroine” award in a two-hour ceremony at the YWCA on Sunday. About 40 people attended the 15th annual event that was part of the organization’s Black History Month celebration.
Myers moved to Schenectady in 1943. In 1945, she went to work for the City of Schenectady’s legal department where for 35 years she prepared documents on tax-delinquent properties in preparation for foreclosure. She also joined the YWCA at that time and co-founded the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
In 1946, Myers married her husband David, who died in 2007.
She also served on a state policy committee on the environment under former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. The issue remains very important to her. “We really have to work at it if we want a country with some green grass and some trees,” she said.
Myers is also currently the secretary of the Schenectady County Library board of trustees and the League of Women Voters health committee. She is active in Emmanuel Baptist Church and serves as its representative for the Interfaith Community of Schenectady. “Malinda is my mentor and role model,” said YWCA President Shirley Readdean.
YWCA Executive Director Rowie Taylor said when she arrived in Schenectady in 1993, Myers was one of the first people to talk to her and tell her about what was going on in the city. She said when Myers was president of the NAACP, the chapter had more than 900 members.
Readdean and Taylor presented Myers with a bouquet of flowers, a lavender lily plant and a citation from the New York State Assembly.
Jennifer Perry offered some musical interludes, including an a capella version of “The Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston.
Myers also sang “The Lone Wild Bird,” as Myers’ daughter, 67-year-old Joy Celeste Hall, looked on proudly and shed a few tears.
The organization also took some time to honor the contributions of other blacks nationally to the YWCA — Addie Waites Hunton, who advocated for the YWCA and other organizations as a social-work professional; her daughter Eunice Roberta Hunton Carter, a YWCA board member who was the first black woman to receive a law degree from Fordham University and the first woman black district attorney in New York; Elizabeth Ross Haynes, who supervised college activities for black YWCA chapters on college campuses and became the first black woman elected to the national YWCA board; and Dorothy Height, who served in leadership positions in the national YWCA and was at its landmark 1946 convention when members voted to end discrimination in the organization.
“We have a Dorothy Height in our community and that’s Malinda Myers,” Taylor said. “You have done for our community what Dorothy Height did for the YWCA of the USA.”
Organization officials also read a letter from the Rev. Larry Phillips, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, praising Myers for working “tirelessly to the cause of justice without any desire for recognition.”
Schenectady YWCA Vice President Marsha Mortimore said all of these people should be honored.
“It’s really important that we look to our ancestors and we drink up all the history of Schenectady,” she said. “This is our history. We need to embrace it because we are truly blessed.”
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