Flame Awards honor service

Published 12:20 am Sunday, March 4, 2012

Evelyn Lowery, member of Southern Christian Leadership Conference Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now Inc., and wife to civil rights leader and activist Joseph Lowery, center, was presented with a freedom award during the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee Freedom Flame Awards Ceremony Saturday. Left, Mary Liuzzo, daughter of civil rights martyr Viola Liuzzo, was also honored. Rhonda Briggins event coordinator, also pictured. -- Desiree Taylor

From tears to triumph to courage and determination, hundreds gathered inside the Carl C. Morgan Convention Center to remember the struggle, during the Bridge Crossing Jubilee’s annual Freedom Flame Awards Banquet Saturday.

Honorees at this year’s ceremony ranged from New York to Birmingham to Atlanta with guest appearances from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, Grammy nominated jazz artist Nnenna Freelon, comedian Roy Wood Jr., Evelyn Lowery, wife to civil rights leader Joseph Lowery, and Mary Liuzzo, daughter of civil rights martyr Viola Liuzzo among others.

Evelyn Lowery, who was honored for her part in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference/Women’s Organizational Movement for Equality Now Inc., said she was pleased to be a part of the movement.

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“How soon we forget the people who have labored and given their lives to the voting rights movement,” Lowery said. “There were so many people who were trampled or beat on, but they got up. This award points out things we believe in.”

Dick Gregory, who was the event’s keynote speaker, gave a comical approach on the importance of letting go of fear.

“When you understand who we are, you don’t have to be validated … when you leave here, stop being afraid,” Gregory said. “God and fear can’t stay in the same space. This is who we are. If you check with all the people in the movement, they have no hatred, just smiling faces.”

Gregory said the public owes so much to the movement.

“’I’ built the pyramids, I’m the one who called it the ‘big dipper’ — the Milky Way,” Gregory said. “Seventy-two percent of the movement was women, but the media doesn’t show that. Ninety percent of the men had reverend in their names before they had PhD’s.”

A surprise award winner of the night was Wallace Community College-Selma president Dr. James Mitchell. State Sen. Hank Sanders presented Mitchell with the award and spoke on Mitchell’s willingness to help young people go to college.

“In order for a flame to have spirit, it has to be ignited. There are not many who can get it (the flame) started and keep it going,” Sanders said. “He (Mitchell) is just an extraordinary human being. He believes in community and he believes in us.”

Other winners included Dr. Johnny Youngblood, Brooklyn pastor and community leader, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee general counsel attorney Howard Moore Jr., and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.