Leaders young and old recognized at Legacy Awards

Feb. 7—Maya Angelou once said, "If you're going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can't be erased."

On Saturday, those words were taken to heart in Greenville with the celebration of the city's third Legacy Awards ceremony — an event that aims to preserve the legacy of achievement in Greenville's Black community and recognize how that legacy is reflected in the determined spirit of its youth.

The ceremony included several categories of awards. Three of those awards were given to "Unsung Heroes" in the community, in an effort to give long-overdue credit for a high degree of involvement. Those honorees were Dr. Dimetrous Nixon, Bettye J. Mondy and Noble Gilstrap.

Nixon is retired from Greenville ISD and has served on numerous local boards, including those for Phoenix Charter School, the William Walworth Harrison Public Library, Hunt County Shared Ministries, as well as Tourism and Convention Advisory.

Nixon is also an author. She's currently co-writing a book with her friend, Brenda Huey RN JD, titled "From Roots To Remembrance, The History Of Carver," which tells a history of Carver High School (Greenville's former all-Black high school during segregation), of which both Nixon and Huey are alumni. Her essays have been featured in several publications, including the Herald-Banner.

As another recipient of the event's Unsung Hero Award, Mondy is known throughout the community as a music minister and helping organize church choirs. Currently, she serves as music minister at Mt. Elem Baptist Church, but is also still a member at the same church she's been part of since childhood, Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church.

"She midwifed a lot of us in ministry," presenter and gospel recording artist Carolyn Traylor said of Mondy's mentorship.

Mondy is also a politically engaged member of the community, as she can often be seen at school board and city council meetings.

The third Unsung Hero Award was given to Noble Gilstrap, who devoted much of his life to the wellbeing of young and old alike. For 40 years, he was a field director for Boy Scouts of America. He also worked as a recreation specialist for the Greenville Parks and Recreation Department, during which he regularly planned activities for seniors.

Gilstrap also served on numerous boards over the years, including the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum, Boys & Girls Club, Drug-Free Greenville, and Child Protective Services. He also held leadership positions in several organizations, including his time as vice president of the Greenville branch of the NAACP, as co-founder of both the Greenville Civil Service Commission and Greenville Police Association, and as president of the Ross, Washington, Carver Alumni Association.

Due to issues with Gilstrap's health, Pastor Phillip Dukes of Crestview Christian Church accepted the award on his behalf.

In addition to the Unsung Hero awards, several Greenville residents were acknowledged for their achievements and service in the areas of the arts, business, community involvement, education, local government/civic involvement, medicine, and sports. The individual who were recognized in those areas were:

—Arts: Genesis Stephenson, Chris Miles, Blues Doctors, Terrance Gassaway, Pamela Daniels, Linda Lawson, and Justin "Mighty Joe" Thomas.

—Business: Francisco Davis, Deneane Gray, Keith Cozine, Ky Johnson, La Shonda Anderson, Luke Nelson, Gerald Weatherall, Monique Lewis, Tammie and Al Shaffer, Bastista Whytus Butler, Provida Keller, Diana Heard Reed, and Kasi Traylor.

—Community: The late Earnestine Williams, La Tesha Barrett, Betty Franklin, Rev. Melva Hill, Ila Gilstrap, Claudia Monique Lewis, Phillip Williams, Vickie Huey, Michelle Lee, Cheston Henry, Rev. Christopher Hillmon, and Rev. Michael Allen.

—Education: Shea Blair Hardaway, Millie Edwards, Dr. Denise Gilstrap, Dr. Kristen Dukes, Karen Neal, Jaleesa Washington, the late Charlie Hawkins, Sherry Fair, the late Aishley Bailey, Tyesha Nelson, Tina Mason, the late Robert Boone, Rev. Charles Faulkner, and Kimetha Thompson Spoon.

—Civic/Government: Rev. Phillip Dukes, Kristen Ciara Washington, Betty Franklin, Attorney LaDonna Key, Kevin Heath, Kenneth Freeman, and Berenice Brown.

—Medicine: Kamilla Fields, Dr. Maxine Thomas, Andrea Fields, Amber Casselberry, Latonya Brown, Dr. Annisa Lewis, and Tamiko Venters Stewart.

—Sports: Natarsha Mitchell, Jason Stephenson, Ricky Simmons, Michael Simpson, John Franklin, Brandon Couts, Spencer Gilbert, Willie James, and Meshell Graham.

Another main feature of this year's Legacy Awards was it Youth Merit Awards, in which six young people were recognized for the positive impact in their schools and communities. They were:

—A'Delyn Williams was born blind, but has excelled academically and has been indulging her love of singing by singing at various local events at on her TikTok channel. In August 2021, an online video of her exiting her home and making her way to the school bus unassisted went viral, receiving more than 40,000 views within weeks. She hopes to someday be a teacher of visually impaired students.

—Ja'vonna Riley is a student at Greenville High School who is part of it's Early College High School program and is an avid volleyball player, playing on both GHS' team and with the Texas Invasion Volleyball Club. She is also president of her youth group at New United Church and is a member of its praise dance team. She hopes to be a lawyer and OBGYN.

—Daryn Johnson is a senior at Greenville High School and a major with the Flaming Flashes drill team. Her goals are to earn a business degree and later own a beauty shop and be a real estate agent.

—Bobbie Williams is a 13-year-old entrepreneur who makes her own lip gloss, with the brand name Luscious Lips. She is currently selling bundles that include her lip gloss with items like lashes, hair scrunchies and hand creams. She plans to eventually earn a doctorate in business administration to learn more about how to set up and grow her business. In addition to her entrepreneurial activities, Bobbie stays busy as a cheerleader, as a member of the yearbook staff and student council, and plays sports.

—Zamara Hill is a sophomore at Commerce High School who enjoys working on phones and computers, and generally helping solve peoples' technical problems. She plans to major in fashion design in college, but also wants to pursue a career in teaching, with an emphasis on helping visually impaired students.

—Walter Abrahams is a junior at Greenville High School who has served as vice president and president of the youth choir at Clark St. Christian Church. He's also a member of the church's audio-visual ministry team. He also plays the baritone saxophone in band and has held a job for more than a year.

"Tonight was not about us but of importance to see our young people rise up," said Emily Thompson of the Legacy Awards executive committee. "We thank everyone for coming out tonight ... to me everyone was a winner.

"Bigger and better is coming," Thompson added.