By Aileen Jacobson
For the first time in two years Silurians got to see each other in person, and for the first time ever we honored a photojournalist with our Lifetime Achievement Award during the gala on March 24 at the National Arts Club.
Chester Higgins Jr. spent 39 of his 75 years as a staff photographer for the New York Times and also has published several books of photography, most recently Sacred Nile, a splendid volume. At the gala, he received numerous accolades, many pointing out that he transformed the way that people look at and think about Black people—and every other person.
“Chester has always been a man on a spiritual mission, striving to find the humanity, the dignity and the grace in everyone,” said Joseph Berger, who worked with him at the Times for many years and is now first vice-president of the Silurians.
“He changed the newspaper,” said Dean Baquet, executive editor of the Times, the first Black person in that job. Unlike some other journalists who think of themselves that way, Baquet said, Higgins “actually is an artist.” Baquet cited a joyous photo Higgins took of Amiri Baraka jitterbugging with Maya Angelou at an event honoring Langston Hughes at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.