By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
The 27th Annual African American Catholic Leadership Awards Banquet and silent auction packed the ballroom at the Seelbach Hotel March 1. And the 1,200 or so people who were there heard a call to help those families who have been touched by the criminal justice system.
The annual banquet, hosted by the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry (OMM), recognizes African American Catholic leadership efforts throughout the archdiocese.
Eleven adults and 13 young people were honored during the event for leadership in their church and school communities. All proceeds from the evening will provide scholarships to the youth honorees for secondary and post-secondary education.
In the evening’s keynote address, Donna Toliver Grimes, assistant director for African American Affairs at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, spoke about the staggering numbers of African Americans in American jails and prisons.
“There are nearly 1,000,000 African Americans in the criminal justice system,” she said. “Fifty-four percent of those African Americans are parents. So what about the children who are left behind?”
Grimes noted that about 600,000 ex-offenders are returning to communities each year.
“Is there a place for them? Are we helping them to rebuild their families?” she asked.
Grimes also asked those gathered what their parishes and communities were doing to invite and encourage young adults to become more involved in their church communities.
“In my observation that’s the most neglected group among us — young adults in their 20s and 30s,” she said. “It’s essential we cultivate leadership among our young adults.”
One way to do that, Grimes said, is to mentor young adults; to talk with them. Another way to get young adults involved in ministry is to “be more flexible in how we meet and where we gather,” Grimes said.
“We are in that period of 50th anniversaries of the civil rights era. … Our great leaders during that period were in their 20s and 30s. It’s vitally important for us to develop, to cultivate that leadership and to identify our young adult (leaders),” Grimes said.
Chris Tolbert, director of worship for St. Thomas More and Our Lady of Mount Carmel churches, was given the 2014 Acacia Award — the night’s highest honor.
The Acacia Award was established in 1989 by M. Annette Mandley-Turner, OMM executive director, to recognize an individual or organization for their years of service, support and fidelity to the African American Catholic community.
The Genevieve Boone Award was presented to Marigold Williams, a member of Christ the King Church. This award recognizes an individual who exhibits a high level of commitment to his/her faith and to the African American community.
Nine others received African American Catholic Leadership Awards. They were: Michael and Carol Cuyjet of the Church of the Epiphany; Charles T. Churchill and Angela Robinson Linton of Holy Rosary Church, Springfield, Ky.; Susan Ann Gibbs of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church; Charles Gazaway of St. Boniface Church; Susan Cole of St. Ignatius Martyr Church; William Mathis of St. Martin de Porres Church; and Stephanie Harrison and William Alden Payne of St. Monica Church, Bardstown, Ky.
Winners of the 2014 Rodriq McCravy Awards — and high school scholarships — were Marshall C. Washington and Casey Williams of Christ the King; Alonna L. Roberson of St. Martin de Porres; and Shequan Hayes and MaAliyah Hodge of St. Monica. College scholarship McCravy Award winners were Skyla Lanae Graves of Holy Rosary; DaShana Lockhart of Immaculate Heart of Mary; Amos Igwe of St. Albert the Great Church; Jordan Crosby and Malik I. Logan of St. Augustine Church, Louisville; and Debbie Beausejour, Aaliyah T. Taylor and Jasmine Turner of St. Martin de Porres.
The youth awards are given in honor of Rodriq McCravy, a young man who shared his faith and beliefs and exemplified values that serve as an example for young people, a news release from OMM said.