Trying her best to think of the perfect story to describe her late friend Della Hardman, Lucia Bacote James furrowed her brow and expressed her frustration with a comparison to a bag of Lay’s potato chips. “You can’t stop at one,” she said.

The Oak Bluffs community found room for seconds on Saturday.

Andrea Taylor and Lucia Bacote James. — Jeanna Shepard

Dozens of people gathered at Ocean Park Saturday afternoon for the annual Della Hardman day celebration. Ms. Hardman moved to Oak Bluffs in 1986 and performed active roles at the Oak Bluffs Library, Vineyard Nursing Association and the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society. She also wrote the Oak Bluffs column for the Vineyard Gazette.

“Della Hardman Day seems to have become a new Vineyard tradition,” said her daughter and event organizer Andrea L. Taylor.

“It’s been exciting to see the diverse audience that comes to this program,” she said. “In this difficult time around race in America, it’s really heartening to see that people of different backgrounds can come to a program like this and find a common ground.”

The town of Oak Bluffs voted to designate the last Saturday of July in Della Hardman Day starting in 2005. Ms. Hardman died in December of that year, but her memory lives on with the speakers who visit every summer to celebrate her memory.

Marie Allen with essay winners Ellie O'Callaghan and Mary Morano. — Jeanna Shepard

Past speakers at the annual celebration include NAACP national president Cornell Brooks and professor Khalil Gibran Muhammad.

The afternoon started with Gretchen Tucker Underwood honoring Della Hardman Day essay contest winners Mary Morano and Ellie O’Callaghan. This year’s essay question asked Martha’s Vineyard high school juniors, “What should the next president do first?”

Miss Morano’s first place essay critiqued Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump while calling for cultural inclusion. Miss O’Callaghan’s essay addressed a struggling American economy. Both essays were published in the July 29 issue of the Vineyard Gazette.

Essay judges Elizabeth Rawlins and Marie Allen received bouquets of roses for their work during the contest.

Richard Taylor and Gretchen Tucker Underwood. — Jeanna Shepard

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell cancelled her planned visit as the celebration’s headlined speaker due to an unexpected schedule change. Known as Alabama’s first female African-American member of congress, Ms. Sewell offered her best wishes from the nation’s capital.

On short notice, Ms. Taylor assigned three speakers, including herself, to re-introduce Ms. Hardman’s memory to the Oak Bluffs community.

“We can share in the common experience of Martha’s Vineyard,” Ms. Taylor said. “Everyone has a right to be here to enjoy it and interact with people like them and not like them. My mother would have embodied that with every fiber of her body.”

Ms. Bacote James painted a portrait of Ms. Hardman’s West Virginia roots. Despite her countless roles in the Oak Bluffs community, Ms. Hardman took most pride in representing her hometown of Charleston, W.Va., she said.

Celebration ends with cake and conversation. — Jeanna Shepard

Ms. Hardman’s father, Anderson H. Brown, raised her alone after her mother died in childbirth, Ms. James said, and his efforts to desegregate the Charleston library while helping to organize the March on Washington set a standard of excellence for Ms. Hardman to follow.

Richard Taylor read aloud a faux column written in Ms. Hardman’s voice that was directed at President Barack Obama. Mr. Taylor, Boston University’s first Rhodes Scholar, said Ms. Harman would have wanted to see the president, whom she knew as a promising Illinois senator, lead a foundation that championed social justice and income equality issues upon leaving office.

Mr. Taylor’s recently published book Martha’s Vineyard: Race, Property, and the Power Place, honors Anderson H. Brown in its early chapters. He passionately urged the crowd to vote in the upcoming election and to lead their respective communities as citizen activists.

Ms. Taylor spoke last. Her words emphasized her mother’s lasting legacy, that one must “savor the moment,” as her mother famously wrote in her first column for the Gazette. Those words motivated Ms. Taylor to never stop learning, she said, no matter a person’s age. She now serves as president and CEO of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama.

The event ended with a free cake reception and a meet-and-greet with the speakers. Featherstone Center for the Arts accepts tax-deductible contributions for future Della Hardman Day celebrations.