Gainesville residents to be honored at Rosa Parks’ awards ceremony
This year’s recipients are Gainesville City Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker; Sheila Payne, a member of the Alachua County Labor Coalition and Reichert House employee Devondrick Slater.
Honorees will be recognized at a ceremony to be held at 3 p.m. Dec. 4 at PASSAGE Family Church, 2020 NE 15th St.
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The Rev. Milford L. Griner, founder and president of the Rosa Parks Quiet Courage Committee, said this year’s theme is “Make Justice Just Again.”
He said his annual speech will include references to injustices that were ignored, delayed or not considered worthy of merit, and in some cases, only observed when there was uproar, protests and publicity from members of communities across the nation.
State of Justice speech
His annual State of Justice speech will be titled “A Pandemic of Hate,” during which he will look back at what has taken place in America in the past several years on the continued fight for justice and equality.
History of Quiet Courage Committee awards
The local Quiet Courage Committee awards have been given out to local residents since its first tribute program in 2006.
Known as the “mother” of the civil rights movement, Parks took a stand when she refused to give up a city bus seat for a white passenger and thus sparked the beginning of the movement. Her act of defiance on Dec. 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, and her arrest led the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead a bus boycott protesting the arrest of Parks and the racist laws in Montgomery.
After Parks died in October 2005, Griner organized an event to pay tribute to Parks.
Duncan-Walker will receive the Leadership and Vision award for her service, work and courage for taking on issues in the community, Griner said.
“Before she became a commissioner, she was fighting in the streets to protect historically African-American neighborhoods,” Griner said.
Griner said Duncan-Walker was unanimously selected by the executive board to be the recipient of this year’s Leadership and Vision Award.
“I’ve seen her work for years in the community,” Griner said. “There was no doubt in my mind and the executive board. She is not afraid to lead and see the vision of Gainesville. She is a bold and courageous leader. After her election, she continued to fight for her district.”
Payne will be one of the recipients for this year’s 2022 Quiet Courage Award. Griner said she was selected to be one of the recipients due to her standing up for the rights of apartment renters when there has been unfair treatment and violations of their rights as tenants and advocating for better policies from the Gainesville Police Department.
“She is not afraid to speak and fight for the injustices in our communities,” Griner said. “She is short in stature but tall in action.”
Payne was nominated by her husband and past Rosa Parks Quiet Courage Award recipient Dr. Paul Ortiz. Raised in Homestead, Payne said at the age of 15 she was inspired to become involved in activism after seeing Caesar Chavez, who was an American labor leader and civil rights activist.
“My work stems from the outrage I’ve seen,” Payne said. “Since the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been working a lot because so many people were being evicted.”
Slater was nominated by former Gainesville Police Department chief Tony Jones for his work at the Reichert House, which is a program designed for youth who are in need of assistance in making the transition from adolescence to adulthood by providing academic assistance, vocational training and employment assistance.
Griner said Slater was selected due to his tireless efforts helping improve the lives of young men in the community.
The committee will honor a fourth local recipient who will not be revealed until the actual tribute program.
The ceremony in December will include a brief tribute to the late Dr. Patricia Hilliard-Nunn, a well- known historian, University of Florida professor and activist, who was an original member of the committee, and served faithfully until her death in August 2020.