A day to honor profiles in courage
Published: Sunday, December 9, 2012 at 8:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, December 9, 2012 at 8:16 p.m.
The chunky, clear beads in the little girl's hair wobbled from side to side as she clapped with red-painted nails to an upbeat gospel sung by the Bartley Temple Mass Choir on Sunday.
Around her, audience members stood clapping, swaying from one foot to the other. Bright, white lights lit up the palms of dozens as the congregation raised their hands toward the sky.
Bartley Temple United Methodist Church was brimming with feelings of celebration and appreciation for those who have made significant impacts in civil rights in the Gainesville community. The church hosted the Rosa Parks Quiet Courage Awards, a series of honors given to individuals who exemplify the leadership and vision of civil rights leader Rosa Parks.
Mounted on the pulpit was a larger-than-life photo of Parks, boasting greying hair and an enormous grin.
"We claim this celebration as an opportunity to be inspired to do our part when we leave here — to help the hungry, to still fight for truth and justice, to be courageous thinkers willing to speak truth to power and to take actions that will ensure that justice will be manifest in our community, in our nation and in our world," committee member Dr. Patricia Hilliard-Nunn said as she introduced the event.
Rev. Thomas A. Wright, Andrew Mickle Sr., Allison Thompson and Sherri DuPree were presented the Quiet Courage Awards. Committee members Dr. Karen Cole-Smith and Nkwanda Jah took turns acknowledging the specific accomplishments of each individual recognized.
Wright was recognized for his work with the Alachua County NAACP, his leadership with low-income housing development for African Americans, as well as other lasting impacts in the community.
"With quiet courage, Rev. Wright was an advocate for decades in the areas of education, equal access and justice for all persons," Cole-Smith said.
Wright was unable to attend the ceremony Sunday; Cole-Smith accepted the award on his behalf.
Jah introduced award winner Mickle as a "tough guy." Jah spoke of his legendary status as a community organizer in Gainesville. Mickle, a former teacher and administrator, spoke of his efforts teaching swimming for years in the community.
DuPree was introduced as a librarian, historian, author, folklorist and preserver of history. DuPree works as the director of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization—Transatlantic Slave Trade and has personally researched Parks, following her trail in Montgomery and Birmingham.
"Mrs. DuPree quietly and humbly serves with little fanfare, little attention but great efforts toward accuracy, helping us preserve history," Cole-Smith said.
DuPree presented framed copies of Parks' fingerprints and her arrest report from Montgomery, Ala., documents which she had come across in her research, to the Rosa Parks Quiet Courage Committee.
Thompson, Executive Director of Three Rivers Legal Services, was honored for her leadership and outspoken attitude.
"She does not back down from anybody," Jah said of Thompson. "She's a leader on a national level, and she didn't get to be a leader from biting her tongue."
"I just can't believe I am in this distinguished company," Thompson said as she accepted the award.
Terry Robinson, a student at Passage Christian Academy, received the Legacy Bearer Award for an essay he wrote on the importance of preserving Parks' legacy.
"The young people today are so out of touch with black history, and they are ignorant of what black people had to give to get us to where we are now," he read.
Robinson went on to say that ignorance of black history needs to be killed with knowledge.
"Our voice is very powerful, and that is the way that God designed it to be," he read. Robinson, who dreams of attending MIT, was presented a large, gold trophy for his accomplishments.
A surprise award was given to Rev. Milford Griner, founder of the Rosa Parks Quiet Courage Awards. Griner teared up when he received the honor.
"You got me!" he said, wiping his eyes with a tissue.
Gainesville police chief and committee member Tony Jones told the congregation that he felt blessed to have such talent living in Gainesville.
"I want to say thank you to the honorees because you made it possible for me to be the police chief," Jones said.
The theme of the evening was "Justice on the Ropes: Winning the Battle." Griner said the idea was a metaphor, comparing the struggle for civil rights to the obstacles a prize fighter faces in the ring.
"We came off the ropes and we won the fight. The Jim Crow signs came down, no more white and colored restrooms, no more white and colored restaurants, no more white and colored drinking fountains. We came off the ropes, and we won," Griner said.