Ms. 2019 BWWE Widow of the Year: Rochelle Hamm

Black Women Widows Empowered (BWWE) would like to announce its selection of the 2019 Widow of the Year Award, an award that's personally selected by the founder, Sabra Robinson. In the coming years, this award will be granted to one widow of color who exemplifies the following:

-inspires other women

-passionate about her work

-shows creativity and innovation

-shows honesty and integrity

-respected by her peers

-loves what she does

-empowers the nation by her exemplary works

This monetary reward consists of a check for $100 for each recipient to spend as she sees fit.

Read more to learn about this fierce widow!

Rochelle Hamm was born and raised in Baltimore, MD where she attended Baltimore City public schools. Upon graduation, she attended Baltimore International Culinary College. After graduation, she became employed at Red Lobster where she met her late husband, Frank Hamm III who was also born and raised in Baltimore.

After spending several years living in Baltimore, they relocated to Jacksonville, Florida where they began a family of five children and five grandchildren. Rochelle soon changed her career and began working in the clerical and caregiving professions. Frank also ventured into a new career and became a merchant seaman, a position which he held for sixteen years.

On October 2, 2015, her world changed forever. Hurricane Joaquin, a category 4 hurricane, and deemed a powerful tropical cyclone, devastated several districts of the Bahamas causing damage in the Turks and Caicos Islands, parts of the Greater Antilles, and Bermuda. It destroyed the El Faro, a United States cargo ship, which had departed Jacksonville, Florida days earlier bound for Puerto Rico; it never returned. Her husband, Frank, was on this ship. He was one of the 33 crewmembers lost at sea. It was determined that if the proper safety procedures were in place, deaths could have been prevented.

Due to the non-enforcement of maritime safety requirements and training, Rochelle created Hamm Alert. Hamm Alert is a crusade for a legislative initiative to make changes and policies to save lives at sea. Her team lobbied the Florida Senator, Bill Nelson, The National Transportation Safety Board, the Coast Guard, and many others for policy changes.

In June, The Hamm Alert Maritime Safety Act Bill was passed by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the United States. The following October, the Hamm Alert Maritime Safety Act Bill was signed into law by the President of the United States. The legislation includes provisions that require the Coast Guard to ensure proper vessel inspections are undertaken, that vessels and crew have necessary safety equipment and timely weather forecast charts, and that voyage data recorders float free after an accident just to name a few.

Hamm Alert's mission is to fight to ensure that safety procedures and policies are in place and followed for Mariners and Seaman.

National Geographic Interest

“On February 20, 2019, The National Geographic crew flew from London to Jacksonville, FL to interview Mrs. Rochelle Hamm, the widow of Able Body Seaman Frank Hamm, who was aboard the ill-fated cargo ship El Faro. On October 1, 2015, the El Faro, en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico sailed into the Category 3 hurricane Joaquin in the Bahamas and sank, 33 crew members on the ship perished.

Rochelle, who refused to be content and satisfied with the explanation about the tragedy, sought answers for this disaster. She introduced legislation called “The Hamm Alert” that called for changes in the maritime industry. On September 28, 2018, the Hamm Alert Maritime Safety Act of 2018 was passed and on October 11, 2018, it was signed into legislation by the president. In memory of AB Seaman Frank Hamm.

The National Geographic became interested in her accomplishments and requested an interview with Rochelle. They arrived early on Wednesday morning, February 20th with JJ, the producer, Steve and Sean, the camera and sound men and assisted by Jaine who kept everything running smooth and timely.”

Read more here: National Geographic

Not only am I proud of Rochelle's achievements, but I also admire her steadfast courage in her determination to make things that she felt were wrong, right in such a short amount of time.

Congratulations, Rochelle. We're very proud of you!


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