ALBANY – Today, the City of Albany, joined by members of Albany’s 369th Veterans Association and others, presented the 7th Annual Henry Johnson Award for Distinguished Community Service to Valerie Alexander-Moseley, an advocate for economic and social justice in Albany, with a special passion for promoting affordable housing in disinvested communities. She has worked and volunteered with numerous Albany organizations for the past 25 years, fighting for issues such as human rights and the prevention of gun violence (see full bio below).
The Henry Johnson Award was created seven years ago by the City of Albany and is given annually to a resident who has “demonstrably given of their time and talent to build a better Albany.” Selflessness and courage, traits exemplified by Sgt. Henry Johnson, the City’s acclaimed World War I hero and Medal of Honor recipient (see bio below), are sought in nominees.
Valerie Alexander-Moseley: “May the work I’ve done speak for me. First I thank God, who I thank for the strength he provides for me to be able to do the work and assist others. I’d also like to thank my husband and my family and friends for always having my back and helping whenever they can. I would accomplish little without my co-workers; it’s THE TEAM that makes things happen. To the City of Albany and all those who had something to do with this Award, I’m gratefully humbled.”
Mayor Kathy Sheehan: “Valerie Alexander-Moseley is an example of what someone can accomplish when devoted to economic and social justice. She has spent the last 25 years improving the quality of life for people who have less; her persistence is truly remarkable. She is highly respected among those who have worked closely with her to protect and create affordable homes and rentals. But to many, she is an unsung and an unknown local hero, as Henry Johnson once was, and like him, she has served with character and humility. We are fortunate to have such a deserving leader who has given so much to the people of Albany.”
About Valerie Alexander-Moseley
A lifelong Albany resident, Valerie Alexander-Moseley is a dedicated community leader who has made positive change for over 25 years in her West Hill neighborhood and across the City of Albany. She has served on the Albany Community Land Trust Board, helping build the Trust in order to transform blighted properties in disinvested communities into affordable homes and quality rentals. She also serves on the board of the Affordable Housing Partnership and previously served on the Albany County Land Bank Advisory Board.
Valerie also serves on Albany’s Commission on Human Rights and was employed by the Crime Victims Board to ensure families received financial and emotional support. She is a fierce proponent of “One Albany,” finding ways to bring individuals, neighborhoods and organizations together. Since retirement, she has dedicated herself to preventing gun violence in Albany. She is active in the Mount Olive Southern Missionary Baptist Church and the Golconda Council of Baptist Minister Wives and Widows. Valerie’s passion for economic and social justice, combined with her wisdom, compassion and hard work, make her a deserving choice of the 7th Annual Henry Johnson Award.
About Sgt. Henry Johnson
On June 5, 1917, Albany resident Henry Johnson enlisted in the U.S. Army. Because of racial segregation and the refusal of the U.S. Army to allow African American soldiers to participate in combat, members of 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the Harlem Hellfighters, fought under the French. In May 1918 Johnson heroically and single-handedly fought off a German raid in hand-to-hand combat, saving the life of a fellow soldier. For his bravery, Johnson was awarded the Croix de Guerre, the first American to receive France’s highest award for valor.
Sgt. Johnson returned to Albany in 1919 and was celebrated as a war hero. But despite having sustained 21 wounds, he received no honors from his home country. After speaking out against racism in the military and the country, Sgt. Johnson was forbidden to speak publicly at military gatherings. He died, destitute, in 1929, in his mid-30s. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Thanks to the tenacity of the 369th Infantry Regiment, Albany advocates, and local elected leaders such as Senator Chuck Schumer and Paul Tonko, Sgt. Henry Johnson was finally recognized by the United States government for his service to his country when he was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart in 1996 and the Distinguished Service Cross in 2002. In 2015, he was awarded the Medal of Honor—the nation’s highest military honor—by President Barack Obama.
The Henry Johnson Award for Distinguished Community Service is given in the spirit of Albany resident Henry Johnson, in honor and recognition of his selfless service and his drive to go above and beyond the call of duty.