Honoring Dr. King through community leadership

Published 5:31 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2024

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, The S. Delois Mayes Scholarship Foundation held its 10th Annual MLK Day of Service Event on Monday, Jan. 15 at the Hilton Garden Inn at 5921 Harbour View Blvd. This year’s theme was based on King’s quote, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear,” Suffolk city and school officials came together to celebrate and honor community leaders who continue to create a positive impact. Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III served as Emcee, while Zion Community Church Pastor and Retired Suffolk Chief of Police Alfred S. Chandler, Jr. served as Keynote Speaker.

Following an opening prayer by Suffolk Council Member Leroy Bennett, a performance by Isabella Rosario and a presentation by Dr. Adriane Bradley Gray of the Education Association of Suffolk, Nansemond River High School 2023 Alumni and Past S. Delois Mayes Scholarship Recipients Anya Foster and Trenton McMillen gave speeches on their college experiences. 

S.Delois Mayes Scholarship Foundation Founder and President Ebony Wright, with Board of Directors Sabrina Turner, Douglas Mayes, and Gwendolyn Ellis-Wilson, presented the awards to both King’s Fork Middle School Teacher J. Michelle Ingram and Walk In It Inc. Founder and Executive Director Dr. Jennell Riddick for their service to the community. Ingram expressed how much receiving the award meant to her.

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“I’m just honored to be here, and I just thank you for this recognition,” Ingram said. “When you think no one is looking, there’s always someone watching, and I am just thankful to be recognized.”

Likewise, Riddick accepted her award while reflecting on a quote by King that continues to resonate with her: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’

“ … It is my honor and privilege to be able to serve along with Walk In It, Inc. to empower the lives of girls and women all along the East Coast and our major footprint is here in Suffolk, and we’re so proud of that,” Riddick said. “So thank you all for the great things you do and thank you for this nomination, this recognition, and we just are excited and honored to be a part of the great things going on in the Suffolk community.”

Two surprise Community Leadership Awards were also given during the ceremony. Both SPS School Board Member Judith Brooks-Buck and Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Narendra Pleas presented the awards to both Gordon and Chandler for their service to the Suffolk community. Gordon accepted the award while noting how honored he was to be a recipient.

“This really shows the partnership that I have with our School Board and the belief that all of you all have in me as the Division Superintendent,” Gordon said.

Chandler also accepted the award while sharing the honor with the Suffolk Police Officers he led as Chief of Police.

“What I did, I could not do if it were not for the men and women who are the boots on the ground. I was blessed to be able to lead these men and women, but I need for you all to understand that the men and women you see riding around in the black and white, they are good people, doing their absolute best to do an unreasonably difficult job,” Chandler said. “Thank you so much for the recognition, but I’ve got to share this with the men and women …”

After the ceremony, Wright and Gordon shared their thoughts on the event. Wright emphasized how thankful she was to everyone who played a part in making the celebration happen.

“I am just grateful and thankful for everyone who showed up today to help us honor the legacy of Dr. King, to honor leaders in our community and to raise scholarship funds,” Wright said. “We would not have been able to do any of this without the citizens of this community and donors and sponsors. So I am just glad to be of service to the community.”

Gordon also expressed how honored he was to be a part of the ceremony and to be awarded for his service.

“A day of service is not just for Martin Luther King Day, it’s for all year. So not only have I been an Emcee, I’ve also been a proud sponsor and supporter of the foundation since I’ve been here in Suffolk,” Gordon said.