Quiet Courage members surprise founder
Residents, student also honored for keeping Rosa Parks legacy alive
Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 2:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 2:49 p.m.
The Rosa Parks Quiet Courage Committee surprised its founder, the Rev. Milford L. Griner, with a tribute to honor him for his "quiet courage" in the fight for equality and justice — the same reason he formed the committee in 2006 to honor the late civil rights icon.
Griner received a plaque during the special recognition part of the 2012 Quiet Courage Committee Awards Ceremony held Sunday afternoon at a packed Bartley Temple United Methodist Church.
Although Griner received special recognition, the ceremony was held to honor Gainesville residents Sherry DuPree, Andrew Mickle, attorney Allison Thompson and the Rev. T.A. Wright for their efforts in keeping the legacy of Parks alive by demonstrating the quiet, and sometimes not so quiet, courage the lady known as the "mother of the civil rights movement" displayed during her life.
Terry J. Robinson Jr., an eighth-grader at PASSAGE Christian Academy, was this year's Legacy Bearer Award winner, which is given annually to a student in Alachua County who writes the best essay on what Parks' legacy means to them.
The ceremony also included a candlelighting in memory of Parks and also Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black teen who was shot to death Feb. 26 in Sanford.
After delivering his annual "State of Justice Address," which focused on the theme of the ceremony — "Justice on the Ropes: Winning the Battle" — Griner stood with the committee as member Karen Cole-Smith praised Griner for his leadership and vision.
Cole-Smith, second vice president, then turned to him and said, "Thank you. There is no turning back now."
Patricia Hilliard-Nunn, also a committee member, then talked about how Griner has fought for equality and justice locally. She said she would see him at press conferences and meetings related to such issues as HIV/AIDS, displaced Kennedy Homes residents and homelessness, just to name a few, before he formed the committee.
Griner stood strong throughout the tribute, but became visibly emotional when it came time for him to speak.
"I really have to say I didn't expect this," said Griner, pastor of Hall Chapel and Pleasant Plain United Methodist churches in Rochelle and Jonesville, respectively. He said he has tried to model his adult life after the lives of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others who have made a difference in the world, adding that he "never has sought the spotlight."
The ceremony began with the singing of freedom songs, such as "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" and "I Shall Not be Moved."
This year's honorees joined a group of 16 highly distinguished people honored by the committee in past years.
Wright, president of the Alachua County branch NAACP for 17 years during the 1960s and 1970s, wasn't in attendance because he was in Orlando attending a retirement celebration for his daughter, LaVon Wright-Bracy.
However, another honoree, DuPree, shared a little known fact about Wright with the crowd. DuPree, director of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization — Transatlantic Slave Trade, said she learned while doing research on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., that a room dedicated to Wright is in a library at Howard.
"How many of you all knew that?" she asked. DuPree also presented Griner and the committee with framed copies of Parks' arrest report and fingerprints from the Dec. 1, 1955, incident in Montgomery, Ala., that led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Thompson, executive director of Three Rivers Legal Services, which serves the poor in Alachua County and seven othe counties, praised the committee for their work and said Parks is the "standard bearer for women of color all over the world."
Mickle is a longtime community activist and swimming instructor who is extremely proud of the fact that Alachua County rarely has anybody die from drowning. He is also widely known by many in the community for his days as an educator, especially at former all-black Lincoln High School.
Mickle told the crowd that his son, U.S. District Judge Stephan Mickle, was beginning to recover from a coma.
"The judge called me at seven o'clock this morning," Mickle announced, as the crowd broke out into cheers and shouts of "Thank you, Lord!"
The awards part of the ceremony ended with Robinson receiving his trophy before reading his winning essay, "Rosa Parks: A Legacy of Quiet Courage."