Fort Lee (Jan. 21, 2010) - For 20 years, the Fort Lee community has paused together to remember the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
Members of Team Lee gathered at Memorial Chapel Jan. 14 to celebrate the life and work of King and to recognize community members who embody the philosophy of equal rights for all.
Anna Thweatt, Equal Employment Opportunity director, welcomed participants to the combined program by sharing a few undertakings from the activist’s life.
“He has become a human rights icon,” Thweatt said. “We know he was a man of unyielding faith, who walked the walk and talked the talk he believed in. Through today’s program we will celebrate the accomplishments and memory of, and pay homage to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.”
Thweatt explained the theme for MLK holiday is Remember! Celebrate! Act! A Day On, Not a Day Off. The theme is the national theme for the King Day celebration every year.
“We cannot afford to let one day go by when we are not diligently and vigilantly seeking to procure and secure, maintain and protect equal opportunity, human rights and the humane treatment of all people,” Thweatt said.
Andrew Jackson White was the guest speaker for the event. White, a pastor for more than 50 years, was King’s personal friend. White has been a minister at Zion Baptist Church in Petersburg since 1963 and at Union Branch Baptist Church in Prince George since 1965.
White spoke about the tragedy in Haiti and the response of mankind.
“I believe if Martin Luther King were alive today he would be very proud of the response that is being made to this human crisis that is upon Haiti,” he said.
White’s speech was full of historical figures and centered on three individuals who impacted the life of King.
Benjamin Elijah Mays was president of Morehouse College (1940-1967), when King entered at age 15. King described Mays as his spiritual mentor and intellectual father.
Mays encouraged the students at Morehouse to solve problems, heal the sick and make the wrong right. King heeded the advice and when he graduated as a young man of 19, he set out on a path to end civil inequalities and create equal opportunities in the United States.
White went on to speak about Vernon Johns, a pastor and civil rights activist described as “God’s bad boy.” Johns was the pastor at Dexter Avenue Church, Montgomery, Ala., before King arrived at the pulpit.
The colorful guest speaker said Johns was a thorn in the side of the congregation at the “silk stocking church.” “Vernon Johns laid the egg that Martin Luther King Jr. hatched,” he said.
The third person to make an impact on King was Rosa Parks, White said.
“I wanted to touch her, to be in touch with history, in touch with the mother of history,” White said.
Turning his attention back to King, White described him as a thoughtful, pensive person.
“There was something about his demeanor; you would look at the soul of the man and see that there were some things in his heart and mind and soul that he had to deal with,” White said. “Everyone who was around him caught a little bit of that something that made him what he was.”
White encouraged his listeners to take action in their communities.
In addition to the inspiring speech by White, the winners of the 2009 EEO Awards were honored for their work in the community.
The Installation Equal Opportunity Leader of the Year award was presented to Sgt. 1st Class Clifton B. Reeves, D Company, 266th Quartermaster Battalion, 23rd QM Brigade.
Lt. Col. Jose L. Muniz, 266th QM Bn. 23rd QM Bde. commander, presented Reeves with a plaque for achievement as well as an Army Commendation Medal.
“As professional as he is a Solider and NCO, he is as an EOL,” Muniz said. “He has done a magnificent job in that role. He mentors Soldiers, cadre, leadership and he is my advisor and he keeps the battalion straight. I am proud to have him in my battalion.”
Kevin Morgan, equal opportunity specialist, complaints manager, announced the winners in the five categories.
Rebecca Joyner, Army Logistics University field studies program manager, was named the EEO employee of the year for her work with students and community events involving international military students.
Michelle Townsend, a nursing assistant at Kenner Army Health Clinic, was named the special emphasis program committee member of the year for her work as the Fort Lee Disabled Veterans Program Manager.
“Townsend has been a member of our committee for a number of years and continues to show an overwhelming amount of support,” Morgan said.
Jeffrey Snow, Division B Directorate, Software Engineering Center-Lee, was named the EEO counselor of the year.
Snow has worked as a counselor for equal opportunities for two years and faced some difficult informal problems during 2009 and was cited for his abilities to remain neutral and get to the root of a problem.
Jimmie Faye Lundie, Fort Lee Safety Office director, was named Supervisor of the Year for her efforts to ensure the members of the safety directorate are treated fairly and encouraged to develop professional goals and growth.
The U.S. Army Quartermaster School was awarded the Organization of Excellence award for the third consecutive year.
“Treat everybody equal, treat everybody fair, treat everyone with dignity and respect and there aren’t any issues, particularly at the QM School,” said Brig. Gen. Jesse R. Cross, QM School commanding general.