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Community honors San Diego civil rights leaders

Leon Williams bust
Posted at 6:52 PM, Oct 23, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Saturday, the Broadway Heights Community Council honored local trailblazers of racial equality and social justice.

During the ceremony, the neighborhood unveiled busts of the civil rights heroes installed at the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade on Tiffin Ave.

The first sculptures shown were Robbie and Barbara Robinson.

"Mr. Robinson was the catalyst, the initiator of all that you see here," Tommy Vance, a member of the Broadway Heights Community Council, said.

Robbie served as President of the Broadway Heights Community Council for 30 years, and with his wife Barbara, transformed the neighborhood into what it is today.

"They always said it's not an I, me, mine. It's a we, us, together and we were raised that way; this neighborhood has now been raised that way," James Spitzer, the couple's son, said.

Robbie passed away a day before the ceremony and Barbara passed away in August making Saturday's ceremony even more heartwarming for the couple's children.

"It's just very nice to see the recognition that they truly, truly deserved today especially," Roberta, the couple's daughter said.

Leon Williams is the only living honoree recognized for his lifelong commitment to fighting racism and inequality.

"I feel really great about it," Williams said. "I'm kind of proud of what I did in my life."

Williams was the first African American appointed to San Diego City Council, as well as the first and only African American County Supervisor.

"The struggle to create a situation where everybody has a fair chance... it was not just one thing, it was a lot that had to be done," Williams said.

Saturday, Williams and the community look back on their hard work and are proud of all they’ve accomplished so far.

They said they don't plan on stopping anytime soon as they continue to pave the way for future generations.

The other honorees were Rulette Armstead, the first woman and African-American Assistant Chief of Police in San Diego; George Stevens, an activist and associate pastor at Mount Erie Baptist Church who participated in demonstrations in the 1960s against discriminatory hiring practices; and Robert Alvarez, who at the age of 12, was involved in major battles to end racist segregation in the schools of Lemon Grove and San Diego County.

Also in attendance was San Diego Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe, who represents the Broadway Heights community, as well as San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, and District Attorney Summer Stephan.

During the ceremony, Fletcher presented the group with a proclamation plaque declaring October 23 as Broadway Heights Community Council day.