Human Relations Council announces 2022 Humanitarian Award winners

Published 6:36 pm Thursday, May 5, 2022

Staff report

SALISBURY — Rev. Robert Black, DeCarlo Duling and Sherry Hawthorne are the recipients of the 2022 Elizabeth “Libby” Duncan Koontz Humanitarian Award, the Salisbury Human Relations Council announced on Thursday afternoon.

They will be honored at a special program on Thursday, May 12.

Black is the priest at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in downtown Salisbury. He has made significant contributions to the improvement of human relations in Salisbury through his leadership in efforts called “Becoming Beloved Community,” which is the church’s long-term commitment to racial justice and healing. Black led St. Luke’s on a project to address representation in religious art in the city’s most historic church building which resulted in the commissioning of religious icons, including an icon of Elizabeth Duncan Koontz dedicated on Sunday, Jan. 9. “Receiving this award is a particular honor” for Black, as Elizabeth Duncan Koontz was a member of St. Luke’s.

Duling is an educator and community and religious leader in Salisbury. As a math and science teacher at North Rowan Middle School, he has organized successful mentoring programs and held clothing donation drives for needy students. Duling has organized food drives during the COVID-19 pandemic and raised funds for families affected by the pandemic. He serves on the Stewards Board for the Soldiers Memorial AME Zion Church and is the President of the District Men’s Boosters.

“Duling serves his community in a very selfless way, serving with gladness and making a positive difference in the lives of so many,” Raemi Evans said in her nomination form.

Hawthorne, a Salisbury native, is noted for sharing her passion for event planning throughout the city. Her event planning has been witnessed throughout the years from events such as the Juneteenth Celebration and Parade, Toys for Tots, Jersey City Reunion, the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. parade and the Livingstone College Homecoming parade.

“Mrs. Hawthorne has been a great community leader. Past and present she has been a great asset to our community,”  Krystal Conner said in a news release.

This award is named in memory of Libby Koontz who was one of the organizers who re-established the Salisbury-Rowan Human Relations Council in 1985. During her remarkable career, she continually broke race and sex barriers as she led the movement to integrate the North Carolina Teacher’s Association. She was elected as the first African-American president of the National Education Association, and in 1969, President Nixon named her as Director of the Women’s Bureau in the Department of Labor. Koontz brought reason and hope to the struggle for justice. Her life is a “shining” page in the history of women’s struggles for equality.

The mission of the Salisbury-Rowan Human Relations Council is to create an environment of hospitality, inclusiveness, acceptance, and appreciation of the diversity of all people. The Human Relations Council membership is appointed by the City Council and the Human Relations Council. For more information about HRC, visit

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at

email author More by Ben