2021 John R. Larkins Award Honoree Presented to NCDHHS’ April Parker

Honor annually recognizes state employees for commitment to equity and public service.

Jan 15, 2021

April Parker, a social worker and program coordinator with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Central Regional Hospital, was honored today as the recipient of the 2021 John R. Larkins Award.

The award recognizes commitment to justice and equality in the workplace and in the community and was announced during the state’s annual North Carolina State Employee’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Observance Program. 

“April Parker is one of those unique individuals who has the charisma, passion and leadership abilities to inspire others to engage in impactful change,” said nominator Robyn Carr, CEO of Central Regional Hospital in NCDHHS. “This is evident through her volunteer activities, accomplishments in her career, and most recently in her work to make diversity, equity and inclusion a priority at Central Regional Hospital.”

Parker, who is the head of the hospital’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, worked to provide a “Safe Space” at the hospital, where staff and patients gathered to share experiences, provide support and safely express emotions of pain, loss, frustration and hope in the wake of the many protests during the summer of 2020.

“April organized another team of individuals to initiate monthly ‘Conversation Circles’ where staff from across the hospital discussed topics around racism, injustice, diversity,” said Carr. “This exercise resulted in staff playing a meaningful part in creating a truly inclusive, equitable and educated workforce that embraces diversity.”

When asked why she has dedicated countless hours and invested so much emotionally and mentally to these efforts, April always says that she wants to be able to tell her son that she did everything she could to make the world a better place, no matter the personal sacrifice.

 “I am extremely proud that one of our very own NCDHHS employees was chosen from the list of all the incredible nominees for the prestigious 2021 John R. Larkins Award,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, who presented the award. “April has helped create a workplace culture where we listen to one another and share experiences, creating a sense of trust. Thank you to April for living out the values of Dr. John R. Larkins and our core values at DHHS.”

In addition to her work to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, Parker works as a private therapist to women experiencing maternal mental health issues. She also volunteers as a professional advisor to the Moms Supporting Moms support group, a peer-led free support group for women struggling with issues related to pregnancy, delivery and early motherhood.

Dr. John R. Larkins was born in Wilmington in 1913 and devoted his life to improving human and race relations. He served state government through the Departments of Public Welfare (now NCDHHS) and Corrections, with the State Probation Commission and as a Special Assistant to the Governor on Minority Affairs until his death in 1980. Dr. Larkins wrote a collection of articles that explore race, community, leadership, and sociology.

The John R. Larkins Award was established in 1998 to recognize human service, and it is presented annually at the North Carolina State Employees’ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Observance Program.

Other 2021 nominees for the Larkins Award included: 

* Corey Alford, Department of Health and Human Services
* Ashley Bizzell, Department of Health and Human Services
* Joal Broun, Department of the Secretary of State
* Cherlyene Bruton, Department of Health and Human Services
* Dr. Shaunda Cooper, Department of Public Instruction
* Tonia Cutchin, North Carolina Judicial Branch
* Clay Fielding, Department of Public Safety
* James Fuller, Department of Transportation
* Elizabeth Harrington, Department of Public Safety
* Jedediah Harris, Department of Public Safety
* Rhonda Hendricks, Department of Public Safety
* Miroslava “Myra” Hernandez, Department of Commerce
* Lisa Johnson-Tonkins, North Carolina Judicial Branch
* Omeshanda Kirksey-Green, Department of Transportation
* Steve McKinney, Department of Public Safety
* Thomas Nevels, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
* Olive Ratley, Department of Public Safety
* Michael “Mike” Reese, Department of Transportation
* David Sellers, Department of Transportation
* Dr. Sarah Sexton, Department of Health and Human Services
* Dr. Hina Sharma, Durham Public Schools
* Kwame Stringfield, Department of Health and Human Services
Family News (2)
April Smith-Parker
Sharon Bowen Becomes First Black Woman Named Board Chair of New York Stock Exchange
By Rashad Grove
December 20, 2021

Intercontinental Exchange Inc. named Sharon Bowen as the next chair of the New York Stock Exchange, the first Black woman to hold the position, Market Watch reports. 

According to TRT World, the Wall Street Exchange has 2,400 listed companies, with a capitalization of $36 trillion.

Previously, she made history as the first African American to serve as the Commissioner of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Currently, Bowen is a finance and securities lawyer. Since 2017, she’s been a member of the board of directors of Intercontinental Exchange, Inc., NYSE’s parent company.

n April, Bowen was appointed to the board of directors of Akamai Technologies, Inc. 
“Akamai is pleased to welcome such a distinguished financial and legal expert to its board of directors,” Dr. Tom Leighton, Akamai chief executive officer, and co-founder said at the announcement. “In an environment with evolving regulatory developments and market risks, we look forward to benefiting from Sharon’s vast experience and expertise.”

Born in Chesapeake, Virginia, Bowen holds a Bachelor of Arts with distinction in economics from the University of Virginia. She obtained a Master of Business Administration from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and earned a Juris Doctor from Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law.
Bowen has over 30 years of experience in business law as a partner, and associate in several law firms.

In 2010, Bowen was handpicked by former President Barack Obama to serve as vice-chair and acting chair of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation. 

Jason Mott is an American novelist and poet
Mott's debut novel, The Returned, was published in 2013. It centered on the return of dead people to the living world and their impact on the daily lives of the people around them. The novel was adapted into the television series Resurrection, which was produced by ABC Studios and aired in 2014 and 2015.

Mott's fourth novel, Hell of a Book, was published by Dutton on June 29, 2021.  On November 17, 2021, the novel was awarded the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction.  It was nominated for the 2021 Sir Walter Raleigh Prize for Fiction.  It was also longlisted for the 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, the 2022 Aspen Words Literary Prize, and the 2022 Joyce Carol Oates Prize.