By W. McNair
On Monday, January 20, 2020, the Urban League recognized several community leaders for stellar service at the annual breakfast, which pays tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The event was held at the Renaissance Hotel in Portsmouth, VA. Barbara Ciara of WTKR served as the emcee to a sold-out crowd of eager onlookers.
The morning began at 8:00 a.m. with the National Anthem, and then the President and CEO of the Urban League, Gil Bland, gave the welcome and opening remarks. Greetings were delivered by Mayor John Rowe of Portsmouth, VA, and Rev. Dr. Geoffrey Guns, Senior Pastor of Second Calvary Baptist Church, prayed a dynamic prayer as heads were bowed. The tingling of silverware and joyful conversation ensued as a breakfast of scrambled eggs, hash browns, and bacon was served.
Dr. Janice Underwood, director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion from the Office of the Governor of VA charged the atmosphere with vibrant, challenging words of inspiration, remembrance, and wisdom to "Reimagine the Future: The Fierce Urgency of NOW." As the audience sat enthralled listening to Dr. Underwood eloquently invoke feelings of pride and joy, many left encouraged and motivated to continue in the fight for justice, equity, and equality.
In alignment with the five pillars of the Urban League, awardees were then called to receive well-deserved recognition. Rising Community Leader Award was presented to Marquise Hunt, a student at I. C. Norcom High School, who is the Chairman Emeritus of the National NAACP Youth and College Division Task Force. Next, John Broderick, who is the eighth president of Old Dominion University, and Cecilia Tucker, assistant to the president for community relations at Old Dominion University, received the Education Award. The Community Service Award was presented to Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Norfolk State University. Howard Kern, President and CEO of Sentara Healthcare, and Mary Blunt, Senior Vice President of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, were given the Health Award. The Housing and Community Development Award was awarded to Bob Aston, Chairman of the Board of TowneBank, and Tom Hasty, part of the founding management team at TowneBank. Gaylene Kanoyton, a community servant and activist, received the Champion for Social Justice Award in Memory of Elijah Cummings. The Edward L. Hamm Philanthropy Award was presented to Joan Brock, a philanthropist dedicated to programs "that benefit culture, education, and community."