By Tracie Isaac –
The Greater Rochester MLK Jr. Commission recently honored two local community members. Jackie Campbel and Mitchell Harris both received the Reverend Raymond L. Graves Social Justice Community Service Award, aka Everyday Heroes Award for servant leadership.
The event took place Monday, January 21st at the MLK Day 2019 Community Celebration at Eastman Theatre.
Campbell is the Alliance Director of ROC the Future (RtF), a collaborative community-wide initiative to improve the lives of Rochester’s children. Prior to joining RtF, she worked for the city of Rochester as an Assistant Commissioner in the Department of Recreation and Youth Services. In addition to her work, Jackie is a committed community servant, and participates in many efforts that support women and youth in the African American community including the Rites of Passage program and Pillars of Hope.
Campbell who happens to share her January 15th birthday with the iconic civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. said that her birthdate gave her “a sense of obligation to find out who we are supposed to be in our work” and noted that she intends to fulfill her obligation while she lives. She also mentioned that she was born in England and shared that we don’t have to be a citizen to make a contribution.
“The moral imperative of our time now is the education of our children. It will take collective work to fix what has happened and this obligation belongs to all of us,” she said.
Mitchell Harris was an educator at Wilson Magnet High School from 1994-2007 and has since gone on to write a series of essays that turned into a novel entitled Building A Black House: A Manifesto for the African-American Community. The book introduces the idea of Kinetics: energy in motion for the benefit of our community.
Harris transformed that theory in to action with the creation of PowerWalks – where community residents walk through the neighborhood as a unified group, meeting and greeting their neighbors while beautifying the neighborhood and informing them about neighborhood news and upcoming events.
Harris seemed to possess characteristics similar to the principle Joe Clark in the movie Lean On Me. When he asked how many of his students were present it was surprising to see almost one-third of the audience including Mayor Lovely A. Warren. Harris is noted to empower, educate and mentor many youth from the Rochester community. Harris shared one of his mantras “You can be anything you want to be, just ask my former students Malik Evans and Mayor Warren.”
This Reverend Raymond L. Graves Social Justice Community Service Award was established to recognize individuals who have devoted their time and effort to servant leadership to the Rochester community by direct involvement in local endeavors while opening new paths of discussion. The life of Rev. Graves was exemplified through education, spiritual formation and community involvement under the description of “True Leaders serve, and true servants lead.”
Joined by a delegation of City of Rochester and state officials, the annual MLK Day Community Celebration was hosted by Simeon Banister, Chair of the MLK Commission. The MLK celebration was filled with performances like the instrumental selection from the Brass Quintets of the Gateways Music Festival and Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra; a musical and Artistic Presentation by the Daughters of Art; and the featured mass choral selections of the MLK Community Choir and band. The keynote address was delivered by Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady, Senior Minister of the Asbury First’s United Methodist Church. Rev. Dr. Cady delivered an enlightening speech on MLK, slavery and racial perceptions.
“Being recognized by the community you serve is a special honor and an expression of appreciation for the selfless work that Campbell and Harris have more than graciously provided to Rochester residents for many years,” Banister said.
“Too often recognition is given as a summary of someone’s life after they depart a position or this earth. Hearing “thank you” from those that you have served is like receiving your flowers while you are still alive to know that your work was not in vein. Let’s continue to recognize our “Everyday Heroes” as part of observing African American history.”