Last Sunday, longtime activist, community leader and founding chairman of the People’s Organization for Progress Larry Hamm was awarded the Key to the City of Newark by Mayor Ras Baraka, during a community service dinner at which Hamm was the keynote speaker.

“It is the first time I have ever received such an award in my life,” Hamm said. “I accept it as an acknowledgement of the work of the People’s Organization for Progress.”

Hamm launched the People’s Organization for Progress in 1983, one of the few organizations that can claim a victory against state intransigence around police brutality. Leading protests that went all the way to Philadelphia, Hamm’s mobilization efforts, which included an overnight occupation of the Orange police station grounds, were instrumental in securing civil rights convictions of the officers responsible for the beating death of Earl Faison in April 1999.

Most recently, he staged overnight occupations at Newark’s Social Security office, protesting cuts in Social Security benefits, and an incredible 381-day protest for economic and social justice.

“Most people of his caliber and profile usually leverage their activism early on into something more career centered or academic oriented,” said Ingrid Hill, vice chair of the People’s Organization for Progress. “He didn’t. Instead, in the language of the Black church protest tradition, he insisted on ‘staying on the battlefield.’”