Janet "Ms. K" Kendrick Sisters of the Center Awards Brunch
On Saturday, October 26th, 2019 we hosted the 1st Annual Janet "Ms. K" Kendrick Sisters of the Center Brunch. This new annual event is named in loving memory of the late Janet Kendrick (1941-2008), or "Ms. K" as she was affectionately known, CCC's former longtime Executive Director who suddenly passed away on July 14, 2008. The Ms. K Brunch celebrates women leaders who have positively impacted CCC and Cambridge, serving as the annual event to bestow the Janet Kendrick Sister of the Center Award.
This year's recipients of the Ms. K Sisters of the Center Award were Toni A. Phillips and Yvonne L. Gittens.
Toni A. Phillips (or "Ms. Toni" as we call her) grew up in Bridgeport, CT and attended Central High School. She attended college in Massachusetts graduating from UMass with degrees in Secondary Teaching and African Studies and a Masters in American Studies. She married Cambridge native David Phillips in 1972 to which two sons were born, David (Rocky) and Damon (Ricky). She is the grandmother to Paige, Morgan, Azai and Zahir.
Before retirement Toni worked at Interaction Associates and the non-profit Interaction Institute for Social Change. While employed at Interaction Associates Toni was invited to accompany President Jimmy Carter and staff members of the Carter Presidential Center to Kenya to assist in the mediation peace talks between The People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (PDRE) and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF). At Interaction Institute for Social Change Toni was employed as an Education Associate working with various school systems around the country committed to leadership training and consulting for their districts. She also worked as the Church Secretary at Cambridge’s historic Union Baptist Church for over 10 years. In 2016 Toni was named the community recipient of the Cambridge Y.W.C.A.’s Tribute to Outstanding Women’s Award.
Toni has been affiliated with the Cambridge Community Center for over 40 years serving as a community advocate, volunteer, adviser, parent, Group Leader, officer/member of the Board of Directors, Advisory Board member and at times chief cook and bottle washer. She currently serves on the Cambridge African American Heritage Alliance where they are crafting the language for a marker to be placed at the Cambridge Community Center placing it on Cambridge’s historical, city-wide African American Heritage Trail. This plaque will acknowledge the Center’s 90-year history in the City of Cambridge, and its impact on the Coast community. Toni is also collaborating with the archivist at the Cambridge Public Library, where historical, Center documents will be chronicled, housed and preserved for safekeeping. This important body of documents will contribute to the ongoing narrative of the African American community in Cambridge dating back to 1929, when the Center was founded.
Yvonne L. Gittens (or "Ms. G" as we call her) is a native Cantabridgian. She is a former "Center Kid". Four generations of her family have attended programs at the Cambridge Community Center. Educated in the Cambridge Public School system, Yvonne earned her undergraduate degree from Lesley University and her Master's Degree from Harvard University's School of Education.
For as long as she can remember Yvonne has been involved in community activity. She served on the Board of Directors of the Cambridge Community Center for over 30 years before stepping down in June, 2019. She was also a member of the first committee to work on Cambridge’s African American Heritage Trail Project. Since retiring from a 42-year-career at MIT, Yvonne continues to stay busy giving back to her community. She can still be found giving perspective high school seniors and their families advice regarding the financial aid process. She currently serves as a member of Sister to Sister Community Conversations Committee, which works organizes 10 sessions per year that provide informational workshops on issues impacting women of color, their families and their lives.
Yvonne's passion, however, is the work she does with the youth at the Cambridge Community Center. In addition to being a substitute Lead Teacher, Ms. G especially loves working with the pre-teen girls. She teaches them cooking and how to make lip balm and body scrub, among many other things. Most importantly, she invites women of color in our community to come and to talk the girls about their careers and other important life lessons.
Photos by Ryan Burt
Ryan Burt Photography
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