For more than 20 years the Kingsley Association has hosted the Spirit of King Awards ceremony to honor those who have advanced the cause for equality in Pittsburgh. Together with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Port Authority, they celebrate local heroes who followed in the footsteps of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
|FOGGIE FAMILY—From left: Lark Foggie Fountain, Dylan Charles Aragon, Charlene Foggie-Barnett, and E. Michael Barnett, M.D. accept the award for Charles Foggie.
This year’s Spirit of King Awards recognized Bishop Charles Foggie and Jake Milliones, Ph.D., two men who are fondly remembered as the Black mayors of Pittsburgh. Both were honored at a ceremony Jan. 14 and had their names added to the Spirit of King Awards Plaque at the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway.
“There’s a lot of people who make contributions who are certainly not acknowledged,” said Malik Bankston, executive director of the Kingsley Association. “Upon reflection you have time to go back and realize they were far more significant then they seemed at the time.”
Foggie, who has also received national acclaim, is best known locally for his service as president of the Pittsburgh Branch of the NAACP. He also developed friendships with other leaders such as Rosa Parks, Jimmy Carter and Robert Kennedy.
|MILLIONES FAMILY—From left: Momar Milliones, Beatena Milliones, Marimba Milliones and Amya Nace, front, accept the award for Jake Milliones.
While both names are etched into the Freedom Corner monument in the Hill District, Milliones reserved the space for the monument during his time as District 6 Councilman. He is also well known for becoming the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education’s first African-American president.
Foggie and Milliones are joined on the plaque by many local legends, including Wilhelmina Byrd Brown, the first recipient of the award. Bankston believes local leaders fighting for equality today will also one day be added to the list.
“As we talk about today’s forms of economic injustice, you would expect to see people working in those areas today, be recognized in the future,” Bankston said.
The room at the Kingsley Association was packed with people wanting to celebrate the memory of King, Foggie and Milliones. Several shared stories of their achievements and paid homage to their legacy.
“Jake always questioned. Jake believed what he believed but he always sought to understand,” said Rev. Jason Barr, Macedonia Baptist Church. “It was his integrity, especially as a political leader that I admired most.”
Eddie Edwards Jr., Port Authority board of directors, presented the awards to the families of the 2010 honorees.
“Bishop Foggie worked hard in the community,” Edwards said. “His services were often described as spirited. His leadership was widely respected.”
Many reflected on how King would react to current events and how achievements could be measured in the fight for civil rights. Jake Milliones’ son Momar Milliones, who accepted the award on his father’s behalf, said the election of President Barack Obama was a measure of the achievements of King and those who fought with him.
“The recent election of Barack Obama is a symbol of hope that our children can reach any heights they want to achieve,” Milliones said.