Bertina L. Nick
In the 1990s, Bertina Larkin Nick became the founding president of the Greater Clay Street Community Development Corp. The organization was often referred to as the Clay Street Revitalization Committee, and Ms. Nick served as the first African American female president from its inception.
Defending her African American community from the encroachment of the urban renewal projects of the 1960s and 1970s became Nick’s life work. The mission of the Greater Clay Street Community Development Corp embodied her dream for self-supporting and independent African Americans in charge of their own neighborhood. Her primary focus was improving the quality of life on Clay Street.
Nick was a lifelong resident of Annapolis. She was born on September 8, 1947, and died on November 22, 2004. She grew up in Annapolis during a period when she knew the bite of segregated streets and institutions as a child. She was the oldest daughter of George Larkin, a Naval Academy barber, and Theola Mae Larkin, a domestic worker. Coming from these humble backgrounds, Bertina was a power for change and an advocate for those without power and position, during her lifetime in Annapolis.
Nick worked her way out of public housing and became a self-sustaining college graduate. She was a one-time welfare recipient and eighth-grade dropout. She completed her high school equivalency diploma in 1978 while raising her family of seven children, largely as a single mother. As her family grew, she worked odd jobs at dry cleaners and sandwich shops to make ends meet. But still, she worked for and promoted her community. She pursued courses at a number of community colleges. She earned a master’s degree in human services in 1985 by regularly commuting between her family home and the Philadelphia area on Saturdays and by taking evening classes at Lincoln University.
In 1972, she was appointed by the mayor to the Annapolis Housing Authority Board of Commissioners. She served as a commissioner for 14 years and later worked as its housing director. She also served as executive director of the South County Residential Properties, which found homes for first-time low and moderate-income homebuyers in the early 1980s. Through her work, Ms. Nick created affordable housing in areas of need.
Nick’s actions on behalf of her community began early in the 1960s when she joined the Black Panther Party, where she refined her advocacy for those in need. She worked to partner with many throughout the community and served on many committees, to leverage resources and accomplish her work for others. Her advocacy made her well-known to all as a community leader and a community activist. Her life-long efforts for the betterment of the Clay Street community made her a champion for those in need. It was said by many that she worked for the benefit of everyone, but especially the common man and the city’s downtrodden.
In recognition of the many accomplishments by Mrs. Nick on behalf of and for her Annapolis communities, a street was renamed in her honor. In 2010, the Annapolis City Council approved the Board of Housing Authority’s renaming of the newly plated street in the Obery Court Housing Redevelopment Project. The street was renamed Bertina A. Nick Way by the Annapolis City Council.