Two community leaders and an organization from the Charleston area will be honored with awards at the 46th Annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration next week.
Joan Robinson-Berry, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina and Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and Reverend Nelson B. Rivers, III, pastor of Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, will each receive the fourth annual Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Vision Award.
Named for Joe Riley, a highly respected and visionary leader who capped a 40-year career as mayor of Charleston on January 11, 2016, the awards will be presented during the 2018 MLK Business and Professional Breakfast taking place at the Gaillard Center at 7:30 a.m. on January 16.
“We want to carry on Mayor Riley’s legacy by presenting and acknowledging the people who have the same sort of vision that he does,” said D. Jermaine Husser, chair of the Vision Award selection committee and vice president of mission enterprise for Palmetto Goodwill.
Robinson-Berry has been honored for her work in diversity, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics by a variety of global organizations, including the National Society of Black Engineers and members of the U.S. Congress. In 2017 Women’s Enterprise magazine ranked her among its Top 100 Leaders in Corporate Supplier Diversity, and the Long Beach chapter of the NAACP named her Woman of the Year. She has also been named one of the Most Powerful Women in Business by Black Enterprise magazine.
Rev. Rivers earned a bachelor’s degree from the first black-owned and -operated university in America and has preached at churches in 23 states. He is a founding member and immediate past co-president of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry, and also serves as the National Action Network’s vice president of religious affairs and external relations. For more than 38 years he has worked at nearly every level of the NAACP, including serving as president of its North Charleston branch, executive director of its South Carolina State Conference, and director of its Southeast region. He was a leading organizer of the largest civil rights demonstration in the history of South Carolina in January 2000 when more than 50,000 people marched to demand the removal of the Confederate battle flag, and his civil rights work led to the election of more than 300 new black elected officials in South Carolina.
The Charleston Area Justice Ministry will be honored with the Harvey Gantt Triumph Award during the 2018 MLK Ecumenical Service, which will take place at Morris Street Baptist Church at 4:00 p.m. on January 14.
The Harvey Gantt Triumph Award for Lasting Contributions to Civil and Human Rights was established in 1984. It was named after its first recipient, architect and statesman Harvey B. Gantt, the first African-American student to attend Clemson University. Past Harvey Gantt Triumph Award winners have included U.S. Representative John Lewis, a prominent leader of the civil rights movement in the South, and South Carolina AFL-CIO President Emeritus Donna S. Dewitt, Senator Ted Kennedy, U.S. Representative James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Representative Lucille S. Whipper, renowned civil rights activist Septima P. Clark, and Esau Jenkins, a community organizer during the segregation era.
“This is the first time the Harvey Gantt Triumph Award will be bestowed on an organization,” said Clay Middleton, chair of the Triumph Award selection committee. “This is fitting and timely, as organizations across the country and around the world are becoming increasingly strategic and impactful in order to confront injustice, affect positive change, and build understanding among diverse individuals. Harvey’s legacy is seen in the important work of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry as they work to tear down systemic barriers as he did in 1963.”
The Charleston Area Justice Ministry is a growing network of diverse faith-based congregations that share a goal to make the Charleston region a more just place to live. Its 28 member congregations work together to empower marginalized people by conducting research, providing community education, and publicly addressing the root causes of poverty and injustice while offering potential solutions. It is unique in its approach in that it seeks to transform systems that cause suffering by holding local officials accountable for resolving inequities.
Attendance of the 2018 MLK Ecumenical Service is free and open to the public. Individual tickets to the 2018 MLK Business and Professional Breakfast, which is also open to the public, are available for $45 online at ywca-charlestonsc.org or by calling (843) 722-1644.