Sharon Wood, President of the West Palm Beach Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., said the recent 2018 Men of Excellence Award Ceremony captured the essence of the black experience—past, present and future in Palm Beach County. Wood said the two guest presenters for the ceremony, Attorney Benjamin Crump, Esq., who represented the parents of Trayvon Martin; and Tallahassee mayor and gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Gillum, brought the night full circle with their poignant speeches tying in civil rights issues with current day affairs.
Crump and Gillum were guest presenters at the posh affair held earlier this month at the Palm Beach Convention Center. The sorority honored six men and one organization for their excellence in the community and paid tribute to various black male pioneers who paved the way in race relations in Palm Beach County.
The 2018 Men of Excellence honorees were: Thomas “Mike” Albritton, II- Business Award; Ulysses Smith- Education Award; Dr. Roger L. Duncan, III- Health and Wellness Award; Willie “Chris” Bentley, Jr.-Humanitarian Award; Artie J. Williams- Social Action Award; Kiwanis Club of Northside, West Palm BeachLee Hooks, President.
“Our co-chairs really tied it into the present time, to where we were in history, to where we are today. The evening was like a well puttogether puzzle where all the pieces fit. It was very inspiring as a race,” said Wood.
“We still have a rich history— despite it all and we have to tell our own story.” She said it was the first time the group recognized pioneers who’ve impacted race relations.
But when Crump took the stage, he gave a spirited account of how today’s criminal justice system still haunts the children of this generation.
He urged the audience to stand up in the face of injustice. “When you hear about Corey Jones, who was just stuck on the side of the road, you can’t just look the other way. You have to do something…..And when you see Trayvon Martin just walking home with a drink and some Skittles, you can’t just look the other way. You have to stand up. We have to protest for our children,” Crump urged.
“It’s far worse how they kill our children in court rooms every day in every city, and how white children get a slap on the wrist. Meanwhile our children are never given the benefit of the doubt,” he pointed out. “It’s the right thing to do to stand up for our children and speak up for our children,” Crump wrapped up his speech to thunderous applause and ovation.
Meanwhile, Gillum, who is poised to be Florida’s first black governor should he win in November, also had a message about the children. He, too, delivered a powerful message; starting with niceties for the Deltas, (his wife and sister are members of the sorority).
After the pleasantries, Gillum got serious. “We’re living in some perilous times,” he said, pointing out the mass killings in Parkland and Orlando with the Pulse nightclub shootings. “And (Donald) Trump is uniquely unqualified to be in the White House. These are our moments to stand up. But the question is: How are the children in our community—in our state? Can we really answer that question?” Gillum implored the audience.
“It’s not just about me. And it’s not just about us. I’m doing this for my kids and for the kids whose names I don’t know.”
Wood added, “As we tell our own story, now we have someone who looks like us who might just be our next governor. Our history is not just in February but all year round.”
“We’re about honoring and appreciating the community. And with the scholarships that we give as a result of this night—we’re planting seeds into our next generation.”