Democrats honor heroes
Published 9:12 pm Saturday, April 29, 2017
Three community heroes — a special education teacher, a public servant and a mentor to young men, among many other roles — were honored by the Suffolk Democratic Committee during its ninth annual Community Heroes Luncheon Saturday at the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront. The Rev. Dennis Edwards was the keynote speaker.
The nominees were Natalie Grayson, Arthur Singleton and Domenick Epps.
Mistress of Ceremonies Dorothy Waddell called attention to a quote from the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
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“The people we are recognizing today answered that question with their actions,” she said. “Thank you for being here to celebrate.”
Grayson graduated from Norfolk State University with a degree in special education and received her master’s degree in counseling at Hampton University. She works for Chesapeake Public Schools as a special education teacher.
In addition, she is a volunteer for Special Olympics. She runs Mailing, Assembly and Copying Services, formerly known as Jobs4Us, which employs people with special needs.
She has received many awards, including from the YMCA, Links Inc. and other organizations. She also works to help ex-offenders regain their voting rights.
“I want to thank the committee,” Grayson said in her acceptance speech, noting that “thanks” appears in the Bible 73 times.
Singleton is a U.S. Navy veteran who has served on the Suffolk Planning Commission as well as the Suffolk Foundation board, Suffolk Democratic Committee, the NAACP and his civic league.
Singleton recalled riding with his mother in his native Jacksonville, Fla., as she helped people get to the polls to vote and tutored them to pass the shameful competency exams that once were used to deny voting rights to many blacks.
“Back in the day, we had to really scuffle to get people to vote,” he said, adding that barriers to suffrage still exist. “It continues today. I want to thank the committee for recognizing me.”
Epps is a native of Suffolk’s Saratoga neighborhood. Once frequently suspended from school and told by his teachers “he would be dead or in jail by the age of 21,” he turned his life around and became a church leader, a real estate agent, a coach for youth football, a community leader and a mentor to young men.
He told of being homeless even as an adult and turning down the chance to sleep on his then-girlfriend’s couch, as they were not yet married. They now are married.
“I believed, and it happened,” he said. “I’m grateful for those who saw potential in me, and all I wanted to do was just give back.”