bill_diggs_web_fc.jpgA youth who was shot in the head and left in the street to die is among five students who will be recognized and given scholarship money when the Black Heritage Planning Committee of Miami-Dade County’s Black Affairs Advisory Board holds its 10th annual Pillars Awards.

Bozeman will be among five students who, along with four community leaders, will be honored when the committee hosts its silent auction, brunch and concert on Sept. 25.

renita_johnson.jpgFor its Community Pillars award, the committee has tapped Thema Campbell, executive director, Girl Power Inc.; Bill Diggs, CEO, Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce; Bartholomew Okora, CEO, Chiada Corporation; and Annette Williams, educator.

The committee said in a statement that it selected them as honorees for their support of programs “which positively impact the community and their commitment to public service.”

Robert Bozeman, who is getting ready to graduate from Miami Dade College, was shot after an altercation at a South Miami-Dade nightclub turned violent in February 2005. He spent five days in a coma and underwent several surgeries. His recovery involved having to learn to walk and talk again.

Those chosen as Young Pillars are Bozeman; Renita Johnson, Miami-Lakes Educational Center; Elcia Joseph, University of Central Florida; Adialyn Milien, Sewanee: University of The South; Yanae Minor, Miami-Lakes Educational Center; and Diamond Ragin, Spelman College.

They will each receive at least $500 – more if a silent auction as part of the event goes well.

“The current economic climate has been challenging but, thanks largely to the fundraising efforts of our committee members, we will be able to provide financial assistance to our Young Pillars,” Edgar Wright, Heritage Planning Committee chairwoman and member of the Black Affairs Advisory Board, said in the announcement. “We recognize that these young people need our support more than ever and our total effort has been geared toward helping them to begin or continue their education.”

Wright described the honorees as ranging from savvy negotiators to student activists.

“Each year the board’s Black Heritage Planning Committee scans the community for individuals who work for bettering their communities—often without fanfare—hence the term ‘Pillar,’” she said.

The Black Heritage Planning Committee comprises volunteer Miami-Dade County employees who plan and implement activities throughout the year aimed at increasing visibility and recognition for the contributions of members and descendants of the African Diaspora.

Campbell is president and CEO of the World Literacy Council of Florida, a non-profit, literacy program, through which she founded Girl Power, an alternative-to-suspension and after-school program structured to reduce the suspension and arrest rates of adolescent girls. Since the program started, the suspension rate of its participants has dropped by 85 percent and the arrest rate by 90 percent, according to biographical material provided by the Pillars Award planning team..

Diggs has campaigned on behalf of black owned businesses and helped negotiate a share of the work for black businesses on the construction and operation of the Florida Marlins Stadium and the University of Miami’s Life Science Park.  He is pushing for black businesses to receive a share in the work available on the proposed Port of Miami project.  He consults with elected officials as he pushes to ensure the minority vendor community can thrive.

Okora has been active in the South Florida African Diaspora community for many years and is former president of the Nigerian Igbo Union of South Florida. A member of the World Igbo USA Congress, he established the Igbo Youth Program of South Florida.

Williams is known for her hard work and dedication to both her students and the civic organizations to which she belongs, including being president of the North Dade “Red Hatters” and a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Johnson has volunteered for the Relay for Life cancer fundraiser and graduated from the Greater Miami Service Corps before enrolling at Miami Dade College and Miami Lakes Educational Center.  She is pursuing an associate’s degree in Business at MDC and a cosmetology license at Miami Lakes.

Joseph hopes to complete both her undergraduate studies and go on to pursue graduate work.  Growing up in Little Haiti, her life was difficult but she had the needed discipline and the support of her mother and four siblings. Her family was among the first to volunteer to collect goods to send to friends and relatives affected by the earthquake which struck Haiti in January.

Milien, a college freshman, graduated with honors from North Miami High School and is a volunteer at her church, where she translates services in French/Creole and Spanish and participates in the church’s youth group.   As a youth coordinator and newsletter editor for Wingspan Seminars, she  became adept at involving youth in their community while becoming a leader at her high school.

Minor is expected to graduate from Miami Lakes Educational Center in December and has pre-enrolled in Broward College’s accelerated Registered Nurse program.  She is active in the health field as a volunteer and has received several awards, including the George W. Bush Presidential Academic Achievement Award while attending William Turner Technical Arts High School’s dual enrollment program.

Ragin,  a freshman, has completed more than 200 volunteer hours of community service in the private and public sectors, from middle to high school, while maintaining a 4.1 grade point average during high school.

This year’s Pillar Awards program sponsors include Comcast, Macy’s Department Store’s down-town branch,  McCormack Baron Salazar, Urban Strategies, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, Lighthouse Garden Center, Rozalyn H. Paschal & Associates  and ICMA Retirement Corporation.


WHAT: The 10th annual Pillars Awards sponsored by the Black Heritage Planning Committee of the Miami-Dade County’s Black Affairs Advisory Board

WHEN: 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, starting with a silent auction

WHERE: Biscayne Bay Marriott Hotel, 1633 North Bayshore Drive, Miami.

COST: Tickets are $40 per person and the price includes brunch and a concert featuring the Caribbean Kids Steel Orchestra and Tampa-based gospel singer Toni Rackard.

For more information: Call 305-375-4606 or log on to


Pictured above, Bill Diggs, below is Renita Johnson