The community came together in a spirit of togetherness Monday night to celebrate nearly 90 people in the Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County community who have demonstrated the spirit of the Reverend/Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Individuals honored at the 30th Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Ceremony demonstrated Dr. King’s legacy of raising public consciousness to social justices, securing progress on civil rights and loving and serving humanity. Each received a medal to commemorate their voice on social issues, outstanding achievements, personal standard of spiritual excellence and community involvement as they sought justice and total equality for everyone.
Numerous community leaders as well as elected officials and special guests had roles in the program, hosted by East Caney Missionary Baptist Church and the Hopkins County African America Leadership Conference, at Morning Chapel Missionary Baptist church, Monday, Jan. 20.
Deacon Ricky Godbolt served as master of ceremony. Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace B.J. Teer helped open the program with scripture. Hopkins County Precinct 3 Commissioner Wade Bartley lead a prayer.
W.C. Pryor, “mayor of Birch Creek” and HCAALC Board member, gave the official welcome.
Jatavion Hall lead the gathering in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag.
The musical selections performed by the choir had people singing, clapping, tapping their toes and praising in a shared spirit of togetherness. Sister Della Cleveland had people on their feet in response to her singing of “God Bless America.” A community member played the harmonica while an offering was taken for HCAALC, to be used to continue offering programs such as Monday’s awards night.
County Judge Robert Newsom said something that struck him recently about Dr. King was his crediting his father’s Christian character and integrity for his strong sense of justice. Newsom said there are a lot of fatherless men and women who need someone to look up to. Providing that Christian character as an example is a way all can make a difference. Newsom said all are family in Christ, and we can all make a difference by standing up for our family.
Silvesta Alexander introduced four students from Sulphur Springs Elementary selected to read essays they wrote about the Rev./Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and how they plan to meet his legacy. Lindsey Hayes, Samara Clayton, Jamarion Hall and James Winnett-Moore spoke of careers which would allow them to help fight hunger, make sure everyone has a roof over their head, the medical care they need and to become a leader who encourages others to live in peace together with racial equality for all.
Mick Trusty introduce keynote speaker Dr. Mark Rudin, president and CEO of Texas A&M University-Commerce.
Rudin said Dr. King’s desire for all people to live, learn and work together was represented in the “amazing diversity in the crowd” at the awards celebration and in Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County, where he said diverse people are able to come together to worship one God.
Rudin said achieving more diversity by representing all people in the administration, staff and leaders on campus is a goal TAMUC is already working on. He said he met with different groups after becoming TAMUC president, to see what’s on their minds and assess voiced needs of each. He reported more women and more people of color are being placed in leadership roles as TAMUC works toward more equality. An Adversity and Equity Improvement Committee was formed.
Goals for TAMUC are for more diversity in all levels of administration, faculty and work staff, more cultural sensitivity and civility, according to Rudin.
Rudin said we should treat others with kindness, putting aside little civil matters. A person’s greatness doesn’t matter if they do not treat others with kindness. We should lead by example, working to communicate and with compassion, Rudin said.
The medallions that were presented at the celebration signify the role each played as advocates for social justice, and the job isn’t done, Rudin said. Like commencement for students, the job has just started.
Dr. Harold Nash, on behalf of Sulphur Springs City Council, recognized the late Jimmie Lurleene Harrison for a life of service. Mrs. Harrison educated numerous generations of people during her 40 years as an educator in Sulphur Springs. She died Dec. 16, 2019. Nash asked prayer for Harrison’s family. He presented the printed recognition of her excellence in education to Harrison’s family.
East Caney Missionary Baptist Church in conjunction with HCAALC established a scholarship in Mother Jimmie Harrison’s name to help a young person in Hopkins County go to TAMUC to become a teacher, HCAALC President LaVelle Hendricks announced.
Dr. Rudin pledged TAMUC will match that up to $1,000. Also Morning Chapel Missionary Baptist Church pledged to contribute $500 toward the scholarship in Harrison’s honor.
Hendricks Monday thanked the Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County community for embracing the program, which started years ago with just nine people in attendance at East Caney Missionary Baptist Church, growing into the program it has become. He noted that approximately one-fifth of the city’s resident have been recognized during the program. That, he said speaks volumes about who the city and county are. He said while no one is perfect, people strive in Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County to make a difference, a part of Dr. King’s legacy. People in larger metropolitan cities often talk about the way the community comes together for prayer, it was noted.
Before concluding, Hendricks announced Monday was his final night to put on the annual program. He is stepping down, to allow someone to “put new set of eyes on the program.” He asked the community over the next few years to collectively work on a program to address reading needs of children here, so that all children develop the effective reading skills fundamental for success in all areas of education and life.
Nash also presented Hendricks an award in appreciation of his dedication, leadership and vision for HCAALC.
C.J. Duffey recognized Hendricks as a recipient of a Fruit of the Spirit Award he was unable to present to him at that annual program.
“We love you and thank you. Whoever walks behind you has big footsteps to fill,” Duffey said.
HCAALC invites the community to a special appreciation program for Dr. LaVelle Hendricks at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, at East Caney Missionary Baptist Church.
Those honored during the ceremony included: