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Photo by Alison James Danyelle Hillman, music director at St. Paul CME church in Russellville, is the recipient of the 2017 Bringing Out The Best Award, given by the NAACP.

Local woman receives NAACP award

Danyelle Hillman was speechless when she was named the recipient of the 2017 Bringing Out The Best Award, given by the NAACP.

“I was flattered that someone would think so highly of me,” she said. “I was at a loss for words. It was quite an honor.”

The state-level award recognized her “leadership to change the world one child at a time,” and was presented at the NAACP Gala March 3, held at the Embassy Suites in Montgomery.

As an active member of the community, Hillman has participated in a number of efforts that caught the attention of the selection committee.

A 1993 Russellville High School graduate, Hillman is the director for three choirs of St. Paul CME church in Russellville – the Senior Choir, the Male Chorus and the gospel choir – and also serves as a musician. “We’ve done a lot of musical outreach within the community. We’ve done some fundraising with the Alabama Music Hall of Fame for their efforts,” Hillman said. “We’ve done mission work, helping make dresses for girls in Haiti – we did that last year. That was really exciting because that was a project I got to do with my daughter.” Hillman has also coordinated and been part of efforts to collect and donate school supplies, food for the elderly and holiday turkeys.”

Additionally, Hillman teaches business education at Muscle Shoals High School, where she is the DECA adviser and varsity cheer coach. In DECA, Hillman works with business-minded students, “preparing them for careers in marketing and getting them ready to go into the workforce.” In cheer, she works to “teach young minds how to be supportive in the good or bad situations and help lift people’s spirits up, even when they are at their lowest points.”

“It’s not always about winning,” Hillman said. “Sometimes it’s about just being there in a supportive role” – like the supportive role she tries to play in her own life.

Hillman was nominated for the NAACP award by the Rev. Charles Dale.

“She was well-deserving of the award,” Dale said. “She’s an active young lady. She does a lot of things in the community.” He also noted her as being a hard worker in the church. “She always makes herself available.”

Hillman is the daughter of Howard and Bettie Hillman, who still live in the area. As the daughter of parents who lived during the segregation/de-segregation era, Hillman said the award means a great deal to her. She said she feels fortunate to understand the history, “being a descendant of someone who went through desegregation and the civil rights movement, hearing all those stories growing up, about Bloody Sunday, the march in Selma, Dr. Martin Luther King and everything the foot soldiers did and what the NAACP did,” she said. “Being honored by the NAACP, and having them seeing something in me, just makes me feel like I’m on the right path.”

Hillman said seeing what her ancestors and civil rights activists did to help make a better future pushes her to do what she can to pay that mentality forward. “It’s my turn to pull up somebody from the younger generation and help take them a little further. I’m hoping something I say or do will inspire the younger generation to know that people have fought, people have died, to get them to where they are today, and it’s their job to take what they’ve been given and to move forward and continue to fight for civil rights.”

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