On March 10 at the Churchill Valley Country Club, the Christian Education Department of the Allegheny Conference AMEZ Church presented the Fifth Annual “Young, Gifted and Black Award Dinner.” Ten talented young adults were honored.

YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK—Rev. Joseph D. Lewis, Bobbi G. Johnson, Joy Ellis, Alvin Thomas and Luther Johnson Jr. (Photo by Debbie Norrell)

The list included: Kevin Bivins (Principal, Fulton Elementary School), Joy Ellis (actress, vocalist), DaVonna Graham (A+ Schools), Kristin Hayes (graduate student, Katz Business School), Bobbi G. Johnson (Senior Software Engineer, PNC), Charise Rochelle Johnson (staff member, University of Pittsburgh), Luther Johnson Jr. (graduate student, University of Pittsburgh), Reverend Joseph D. Lewis (Trinity AMEZ Church), Alvin Thomas (student, University of Pittsburgh), and Weldon Briant Williams (Assistant Principal, Propel Braddock).

When Rev. Lewis accepted his award, he said he felt like he was at the Oscars. The room was full of greatness-from the mistress of ceremony and past honoree Monica D. Lamar to Phillip Woods, past honoree and principal of West Mifflin School, who delivered the occasion. Woods said, “the event inspired by the song performed by Nina Simone ‘Young, Gifted and Black’ was an event honoring ordinary people, no capes, no gowns, no utility belts, just ordinary people doing extraordinary things, those who have learned to dance in the rain during the storm.”

Jaiera Pryor, also a past honoree, performed a beautiful musical tribute. And then there was the keynote speaker, Andre Kimo Stone Guess, president and CEO of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Guess said he thought he came to Pittsburgh to run the AWC but he found out he also came to preach. He is also a licensed minister and preached recently at Central Baptist Church. Guess spoke about a speech that was delivered by Lorraine Hansberry the author of the song “Young, Gifted and Black.” He spoke about despair, life and love. Guess said we, as Black people, need a brain washing campaign, we need to tell ourselves about the best of ourselves. And that is what Arzella Stewart McCauley, CED Director, event chair and founder of Young, Gifted and Black, has done each year for five years. She and her committee have found the best who are young, gifted and Black; and that is a fact.

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