The Community Crisis Center of Northeast Oklahoma will host activities Aug. 20-25 for its annual Fern Holland Memorial week commemorating the life and work of the local fallen hero and supporting its missions to empower women and end violence.
MIAMI – Each year the Community Crisis Center of Northeast Oklahoma (CCC) gathers together community members for a week of celebration and remembrance marking the life and deeds of a fallen local hero - Fern L. Holland.
Holland, born in Bluejacket and a 1986 Salutatorian graduate of Miami High School, became a Tulsa-based attorney that touched many lives and soon went on to use her knowledge of the law to facilitate human rights and education efforts in Namibia and Guinea, West Africa, and Iraq.
Awarded in 2004 with the national Defense of Freedom Medal and named 2005 Oklahoman of the Year, Holland opened 18 women's centers to educate Iraqi women.
It was in Iraq while working for the American-led Coalition Provisional Authority to promote human rights and include women's rights into the new Iraqi constitution that Holland's life was tragically cut short at just 33 years old.
On March 9, 2004, insurgents posing as Iraqi police ambushed and opened fire on the vehicle Holland, Iraqi translator Salwa Ourmashi, and American press officer Robert J. Zangas were traveling in killing all three.
Since her loss, Holland's family has striven to preserve her memory with a focus on honoring and continuing her work rather than the circumstances of her death.
In alignment with this vision, the CCC dedicated its facility in Miami the "Fern L. Holland Advocacy Center" in 2012 and coordinates the local observance of Fern Holland Memorial Week annually. The commemorative week is always set in August in honor of Holland's birthday in the same month.
“She was our window to the world, and through her, the marginalized, the oppressed and the forgotten were humanized, and their voices were heard,” said Fern's sister Vi Holland during the dedication ceremony in 2012. “She taught us all that the greatest joy in life comes through helping people."
"Fern would not want to be remembered because of her death, or the way she died," said Vi. "She would want to be remembered because of her life and the way she lived."
This year, Fern Holland Memorial Week will be celebrated Aug. 20-25. The week-long activities begin Monday, Aug. 20 with “Fly Flags for Fern Day" with American flags posted along Main Street overseen by the American Legion Post 147.
The community is encouraged to join in and display their flags in honor of Holland.
Tuesday through Friday, Aug. 21-24, the Bluejacket and Miami high schools will also have poster displays created by students past and present chronicling Holland's incredible life and impact.
"We are so grateful for the community for continuing to keep Fern's memory alive each year," said CCC assistant director Kelsey Samuels. "She not only made a local impact but an international impact as well. Our children and students should know who she was and what she accomplished and that they are capable of making the world a better place as well."
The commemorative week concludes with the Fearless Fern 5K and 1 Mile Walk Saturday, Aug. 25. Participants will begin at the Fern Holland Advocacy Center, 118 A Street SE, Miami. Check-in begins at 6:30 a.m., race kicks-off at 7:30 a.m. All runners, walkers, and pets are welcome.
The entry fee for the 5K is $20 and $10 for the 1 Mile Walk. There is no entry fee for children ages 12 and under. Registration is available at www.getmeout.org and on-site the morning of the event.
All participants will receive a t-shirt, swag bag, and breakfast and will be entered into a raffle for door prizes.
The event will also include free family activities such as face painting, snow cones, a bounce house and the opportunity to visit with local shelter pets available for adoption.
All proceeds will benefit the CCC, a non-profit organization that continues Holland’s work as a humanitarian activist to empower women and end violence through advocacy programs, an 18-bed shelter in Ottawa County, and a crisis shelter in Delaware County.
The CCC also provides a 24/7 crisis hotline to help those living with domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Advocates are available to listen and provide helpful resources by calling 1-800-400-0883.
Donations supporting the CCC can also be made through several options supporting the agency's ongoing work at http://getmeout.org/get-involved/donate.html or by calling 918-540-2275.
Each donation is tax deductible and acknowledged with a written receipt.
Dorothy Ballard is the managing news editor of the Miami News-Record. Email her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @dm_ballard.