Fmr. Governor Douglas Wilder receives lifetime achievement award during 40th Urban League of Hampton Roads MLK breakfast

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Urban League of Hampton Roads hosted its 40th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Awards Breakfast at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.

The special event recognized the contributions of local leaders who apply Dr. King’s message of unity and equality to the Hampton Roads Community.

Eight community leaders were awarded for their work toward social and economic equality.

  • Health — Charlie Hill, Hampton Roads Prostate Forum

  • Education — Peter Blake, Retiring Executive Director of State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV)

  • Economic Development — Harry Lester, community leader

  • Finance — Alexis Swann, Peninsula president, TowneBank

  • Housing — Norfolk Redevelopment Housing Authority (NRHA)

  • E.L. HAMM Lifetime Achievement Award — Gov. Douglas Wilder

  • Young Professional Member of the Year — Nykita Doggette

  • Guild Member of the Year — Lisa Wise-Chapman

“Dr. King referred to us as a beloved community,” said Gilbert Bland, president & CEO of the Urban League of Hampton Roads. “We were over 1,400 strong today from every gender [and] race. The Navy was here, the police were here, politicians were here, service providers as well as service recipients.”

Bland calls it a homecoming of sorts, as this is the first time the breakfast was in person since the pandemic.

“It was warming to me to see so many people embrace each other and be glad to be in the company of each other,” Bland said. “That type of spirit leads to camaraderie, which is cooperation, collaboration and hopefully helping our community.”

Former Gov. Douglas Wilder received the lifetime achievement award for being a “very wise and skillful politician.” Wilder, who pushed for MLK Day to be recognized, was the first elected African American governor in United States history.

“It took me eight years to get this holiday passed for Dr. Martin Luther King,” Wilder said.

Dr. Clint Smith, a New York Times bestseller for his book, How the Word is Passed, which explores historic plantations and writes stories about the country’s history, was the keynote speaker.

“We come from a lineage of people who fought for freedom they knew they might never see,” Smith said, “but they fought for it anyway because they knew that someday someone would.”

Smith challenged everyone to be responsible for creating a world better for the next generations, like Dr. King.

“He believed deeply in eradicating poverty,” Smith said. “He believed deeply in universal housing, universal education, universal jobs. There’s a lot of people who recognize that this work is done best in community, that this work is done best in solidarity, who recognizes that a lot of progress has been made, but also there’s a lot of work to do.”

Learn more about the Urban League of Hampton Roads.

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