by: DARIELLA HERNANDEZ/Editorial Assistant
An anticipating audience recently gathered at the Levelland campus to celebrate Black History Month and to recognize two South Plains College employees who strive to help the community and its diversity issues.
The annual Black History Month celebration and award ceremony was held on Feb. 29 in the Sundown Room in the Student Center.
Tahj Hooks and Kyra Lawrence, both students at SPC, hosted the event. The evening began with a performance by Ruby Brackens’ fourth grade class from Levelland Intermediate School.
The fourth grade class took the stage as they sang along to “This Little Light of Mine.” As the kids took their spots on the stage, each one of them spoke about an African American figure in history.
The honoring began after the fourth grade class shared some African American facts with the audience.
Maria Strong, diversity coordinator at SPC, introduced the first Spirit of Martin Luther King Award winner.
“I have heard so many good things about Ben,” said Strong. “He’s advised hundreds and hundreds of students. We are very, very proud of Ben.”
And with those words, Ben Alexander, community leader, pastor for the Holy Temple Church of God in Christ, and counselor at the Reese Center campus, received the first award for the night.
“I am appreciative of the fact that my heritage is deeply rooted,” said Alexander as he took the stage. “I am so fortunate. I am also blessed to serve in a community where I get the opportunity to pour into members that take the word of truth, and spread the word of truth throughout the city of Levelland.”
Strong then presented the Spirit of MLK award to Alexander.
“This is for the outstanding commitment to the SPC community in the areas of diversity, multicultural inclusion, and civic leadership,” said Strong.
After the first award was given to Alexander, the Silent Praise Group performed. The group is made up of seven children, ranging in age from 7 to 13 years old. The Silent Praise Group then gave a soulful performance. The kids danced, sang, and incorporated the crowd.
Once the Silent Praise Group finished, Strong prepared to present the second award.
“The next Spirit of MLK award will go to Dr. Gail Malone,” announced Strong. “She has been doing so many things in the community. We’re very proud and grateful for all the work she has done, not only here at SPC but for the community as well.”
Dr. Malone, director of the Teaching and Learning Center at SPC, then went on stage to receive her award.
“I am so greatly honored,” began Malone. “I am speechless. I can’t think of any words to say, but thank you so very much. You don’t know what this means to me. I will honorably display this award on the wall of my office.”
Hooks then introduced the guest speaker for the night.
“Since 1990, Banks has served a diverse population in such settings as education, community, athletics, resident, and facility centers,” explained Hooks.
Dr. Amanda Banks, director of the outreach and community engagement of east Lubbock promise neighborhood, then began her speech.
Dr. Banks covered many issues, from justice and current racial problems, to the water problems in Flint, Michigan.
“I like that this is called The Spirit of MLK awards,” began Banks. “We know that he [Martin Luther King Jr.] was a teacher, a preacher, advocate, and a prophet.” Banks then proceeded to read a couple of verses from the Bible regarding MLK’s work.
Banks then touched on the racial problems Texas institutes face today, focusing on how different races get disciplined differently for the same offense.
Banks also talked about the contaminated water issue in Flint, which has been a problem since April of 2014.
She then encouraged those in the audience to become advocates and speak up for those who can’t.
The event ended with a performance by Hooks and his youth group, who sang along to “Lift Every Voice” by James Weldon Johnson. The audience stood and sang along with the youth group, bringing the event to a close.