Poets, writers, community leaders and family members honored the life and legacy of Della Hardman on Saturday, with the 18th annual Della Hardman Day held in Ocean Park.

Ms. Hardman was an artist, scholar, writer and professor, to name just a few of her professions. But above all she was remembered on Saturday afternoon as a friend and a neighbor.

“From the 1980s, Della immersed herself in the whole Island community,” Oak Bluffs select board member Gail Barmakian said at the event.

Della's daughter, Andrea Taylor, addressed the crowd. — Ray Ewing

“You knew she was a person who didn’t let obstacles stop her,” Ms. Barmakian continued. “In fact, I don’t think she saw obstacles — she saw opportunity.”

In 2005, the Oak Bluffs select board designated the last Saturday in July as Della Hardman Day to commemorate her legacy as an inspiration to the community.

A long-time seasonal resident of Oak Bluffs, and eventual full-time resident, Ms. Hardman grew up in West Virginia, a state she took great pride in. Throughout the program, speakers characterized the connection she had with her home state.

“She would see a license plate from West Virginia and she would camp out,” said Andrea Taylor, Ms. Hardman’s daughter.

Fellow West Virginian Connie Williams said Della Hardman and her family left a large impact on their community of Charleston W. Va. Ms. Williams said she didn’t officially meet Ms. Hardman until they found each other on the Vineyard in the late 1980s, but she had often heard Ms. Hardman’s name mentioned long before their meeting.

Featured speakers Haki Madhubuti and Chester Higgins Jr. — Ray Ewing

“Della was not a stranger to anyone,” Ms. Williams said.

Ms. Williams said the two became fast friends.

“It was as if we’d known each other personally our entire lives,” Ms. Williams said.

Attendees Saturday heard from keynote speakers Chester Higgins Jr., an author and longtime photojournalist with the New York Times, and poet and professor Haki Madhubuti.

Mr. Higgins spoke about his book, Sacred Nile, which explores the influence people of African descent had on the foundations of western religion.

In his speech, he said some years ago he began traveling to the graves of important figures in the African American community and placing ankhs at the sites in their honor. An ankh is an ancient Egyptian symbol representing eternal life. Mr. Higgins said he began with the graves of figures like Malcolm X, and plans to visit the grave of Frederick Douglass.

Connie Williams spoke her long friendship with Della. — Ray Ewing

He said he placed an ankh at Ms. Hardman’s grave on Friday.

“She is someone who deserved an ankh,” Mr. Higgins said.

Mr. Madhubuti read three poems underscoring the importance of art and the strength of women. Mr. Madhubuti referred to them as “Della poems.”

“The quality of the art determines the quality of the responses,” he said.

The program concluded as Ms. Hardman’s grandchildren Quinn, Avery, Kayin, Karys and Kyncade Coaxum read declarations honoring Ms. Hardman from several West Virginia politicians, including Gov. Jim Justice, and senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Capito. The grandchildren also read a citation from the president of West Virginia University.

Addressing the crowd, Ms. Hardman’s daughter Faith Taylor said her mother wanted her legacy to carry on.

“She told me, in words, she would like to be remembered forever,” Faith Taylor said.

“Della would be very proud,” Andrea Taylor added, looking out at the crowd. “And I’m sure she’s looking down and smiling on this moment on this day.”