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