2023 Honoree

Velma Hill

civil rights and UFT organizer

Former vice president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Velma is also the former civil and human rights director for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). With husband Norman Hill, she was a youth leader of the NAACP chapter in Chicago, and in 1960, the Hills led a “wade-in” protest at a segregated White-only beach. Velma was badly injured by a group of beach-goers who hurled rocks and bricks at the Hills and the other Black people who had peacefully gathered to enjoy the beach. The Hills went on to become active leaders of the labor movement. In 1969, Velma Hill founded the New York City school district paraprofessionals’ chapter of United Federation Teachers/AFT Local 2, facing down racism and anti-union bigotry in the process. Her advocacy continues to this day. Climbing the Rough Side of the Mountain, a memoir by Velma and her husband Norman Hill, will be published by Regalo Press in October 2023.


Interview conducted, taped and edited by Ruth Sergel

Awards Ceremony

Video by Antony Wong


Posters about the honorees are by students from The Imagine Society, where young leaders work with adult mentors to help make the world a better place. 

Shelby and Hannah Fenton made this poster about Velma Hill

[Click image to enlarge.]