The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga this week announced awards for three community leaders honored for championing equal opportunity, civil rights and social justice.
BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee received the Corporate Award for Inclusion by Design, the Chattanooga Innovation District was the recipient of the Community Impact Award and LaFrederick Thirkill was awarded the Whitney M. Young Jr. Award.
“BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Chattanooga’s Innovation District and Mr. Thirkill have shown their support of our community through their commitment to embrace diversity, improve our quality of life and demonstrate top-notch leadership,” says Warren E. Logan Jr., president and chief executive officer of the local Urban League.
The award recipients were honored at the 35th annual Equal Opportunity Day breakfast Wednesday at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
The Corporate Award for Inclusion by Design recognizes an organization that embraces inclusion through its business practices and community engagement activities.
“We believe our business should reflect the people we serve every day,” said JD Hickey, president and chief executive officer of BlueCross. “It’s a big part of what drives our service, hiring and other decisions. Doing it right means being intentional about creating a culture that embraces diversity and inclusion as a core belief. We appreciate this recognition of our ongoing efforts.”
The Community Impact Award recognizes an organization that elevates the community’s standard of living and contributes to the overall quality of life. Under the leadership of Ken Hays and the Enterprise Center, the Chattanooga Innovation District has grown to host a number of start-up businesses, incubators and accelerators.
The Whitney M. Young Jr. Award recognizes outstanding service by an individual or group for commitment to the cause of justice, social consciousness and civic involvement. Thirkill, an elementary school principal, was selected for the award for his role in raising awareness of the story of Ed Johnson, a black man murdered by a lynch mob in Chattanooga in 1906.
After reading an article about the book “Contempt of Court,” Thirkill became interested in Johnson’s story and visited the cemetery where he was buried.
He later met Leroy Phillips, one of the authors of “Contempt of Court,” and together, they worked to inform the public about the story.
In 2006, Thirkill wrote, directed and produced the play, “Dead Innocent: The Ed Johnson Story,” and donated the proceeds to starting an Ed Johnson Memorial Scholarship at the Community Foundation for local students majoring in criminal justice.
Each year, the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga observes Equal Opportunity Day as a community-wide celebration of inclusiveness.
This year’s event theme was “Urbanomics – The Breakdown of Economic Inequality.”
John Hope Bryant, founder and chief executive officer of Operation HOPE, was the keynote speaker. Jeff Jackson, Southeast market president of First Tennessee Bank, chaired the event.
Source: Urban League