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Zeta Phi Beta hosts MLK award ceremony

For years, the Theta XI Zeta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta has hosted an annual Martin Luther King parade in honor of the holiday. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on Monday they hosted an awards ceremony instead. 

Members gathered on the Lafayette Plaza in downtown to pass out awards to men in the community who have made it their mission to represent the ideals of King. 

“There are men in this community, men of color, that are doing great things in the city of LaGrange,” said chapter president Eldra Gilliam. “We do want to put a spotlight on our men that are working on the livelihoods of young men and young ladies, housing and everything that encompasses the well-being of our community.” 

Of the first honored was Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity member Oliver Greene, who is a former educator and principal. 

“This is my hometown of LaGrange, and I have lived here all my life,” Greene said. “I have enjoyed working with these young people. I see young people every day that are doing very well. We need to give our hats off to them and thank them. We need to thank the teachers.” 

Divine Nine fraternity members that were honored all received plaques that said, “For your dedicated service of mentoring and providing leadership and guidance to the youth in our community. Presented by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Theta Xi Zeta Chapter.”

Dr. Nigel Walker, who is an assistant principal at Callaway High School and Phi Beta Sigma member, was honored during the ceremony for his passion for helping the youth. 

“I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to come out and actually have an opportunity to speak to some of the students I work with,” Walker said. “I want to tell the students my story that I came from a single parent family household in the projects of Alabama. I have worked hard to come to a position to be a role model, a mentor and everything I do is for my kids. You can be whatever you want to be. Strive for greatness.” 

The alumni chapter of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity was also honored for their dedicated service of providing leadership, mentoring and for organizing the Divine Nine in providing a breakfast and toy drive for children at the LaGrange Housing Authority.

Three local Troup County School System students also shared essays they wrote for the holiday. 

Empowerment 3D Inc. program mentor Jerome Cofield was also honored during the ceremony for his efforts with the program. 

Gilliam said Cofield was a hard worker and always enthusiastic about his work.  

“I want to receive this award on behalf of all the young men that I work with and all the dads that I work with,” Cofield said. 

Callaway High School assistant football coach Andre Johnson was given a community service award for making an impact with the youth. 

“Somebody had to pay it forward for us, so it is our job to pay it forward now,” Johnson said. “Dr. King’s dream still lives.” 

The Rev. Lovett Thornton was honored for his many years of service and for providing a venue for the Martin Luther King prayer breakfast at Saint James Christian Episcopal Methodist Church. 

Carmelo Gardido and Dr. Robert Tucker were also awarded a community service award by the sorority but could not make it to the ceremony. 

Gilliam said she hopes to continue this ceremony for years to come and hopes it promotes unity within the fraternities, sororities and community. 

“You see us in different colors and different letters but when it all comes down to it, we are all doing the same thing,” Gilliam said. “We are trying to lift up our community. We are trying to lift up a young man or young woman. We want to put them on the right track.”