By Jake Goldberg – Collegiate Staff
On Saturday, Feb. 4, 18 African American community leaders were recognized in Grand Rapid’s 35th annual Giants Awards ceremony.
For the past 35 years the Giants Awards have awarded strong African American leaders and influencers in our community.
“These are just incredible awards,” said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. “I think they mean a lot to our community because they recognize amazing things amazing people are doing in our city.”
This was the first year for the Giants to offer a new award known as the “Junior Giants” which is a joint award and scholarship given to four students who demonstrate the traits of a Giant.
“Well we wanted to do something for the 35th anniversary,” said Chris Arnold, head chair of the awards. “We have been talking about Junior Giants, and how important it is to really recognize our youth for the great things they are doing.”
At the end of the night Larry Johnson, the Executive Director of Public Safety & Security for Grand Rapids Public Schools took home the “Giant Among Giants” award, which is the last award given to an individual who has made a tremendous impact in the community.
“I’m very appreciative, yet very humbled at the same time,” Johnson said. “You know to be a Giant among Giants. There are some tremendous people who stood before me. Just to follow those mentors who came before me is an awesome experience.”
Johnson worked for the Grand Rapids Police Department from 1984 to 1997. He has been awarded many different awards and accomplishments across his career. As a police officer he spent a majority of his career putting people behind bars. Now he works with Grand Rapids schools to help educate kids to make the right decisions so they never have to be.
“I think this is an opportunity for us to recognize for where we came,”Johnson said. “I think we can still come together, and I think it was evident tonight. These programs are important to understand heritage.”
Many Giants had thoughts on why it’s important to keep award ceremonies like these alive in times where division feels very prevalent in our society. Mattie Hampton was awarded the Hattie Beverly Education Award. She commented to why we need to keep the spirit of the Giants alive in these new tough times.
“African Americans need to be recognized for their contributions they make to society,” Hampton said.
Henry L. Saverson was awarded the Floyd Skinner Justice award for his advocacy for human rights.
“I think it’s good to help people realize that we can move forward,” Saverson said. “If we stay together and do positive things. We should have awards were we recognize what’s happening.”
All proceeds from this event will go to the Milo M. Brown scholarship, and the Junior Giants to help future leaders impact our community.