Home Event Giant Awards Ceremony and Banquet: A celebration of excellence and leadership

Giant Awards Ceremony and Banquet: A celebration of excellence and leadership

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The Giant Among Giants, Nathanial Moody, after winning that title as he hugged fellow Giant Michelle Smith-Lowe at banquet ceremony Saturday, Feb. 22. (Sabrina Edwards/The Collegiate)

Pastor Nathaniel Moody, a Grand Rapids Community College alum and Third Ward Commissioner, was named the Giant Among Giants during an awards ceremony Saturday that celebrated excellence within the African American community of Greater Grand Rapids. 

GRCC’s Office of Equity and Inclusion served as the sponsoring organization for the 38th annual Giant Awards and Banquet held at the JW Marriott Feb. 22. 

As the “benchmark of great leadership,” Moody, along with his wife, Laura Moody, has faithfully and humbly served this community. He has been on the boards of Grand Rapids Public Schools, Spectrum Health, the Police Chief Advisory Committee and the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation. 

Before Moody was officially named the Giant Among Giants award recipient, the mistress of ceremonies, Shannon Cohen, listed attributions of this leader. As she did so, the crowd of 650+ people began rising to their feet, cheering and applauding with great excitement and admiration. Cohen had to systematically increase the volume at which she spoke as the acclamation from the audience continued to reach heightened levels. 

“Sir, we salute you for the many ways that you make a difference,” Cohen said as Moody proceeded to the stage, “…we are so grateful for you and your service to this community.” 

Moody during his acceptance speech alongside Shannon Cohen, Mistress of Ceremony (left) and Moody’s wife (right). (Sabrina Edwards/The Collegiate)

Moody accepted the award, overcome with emotion as he stood by his wife of 41 year, “I found purpose when I met this lady to my left, “ Moody said as he looked at his wife lovingly, “Proverbs 18:22 said, and I don’t want to preach a sermon, to the man that finds a wife finds a good thing, he finds favor with the Lord. I have had favor with her and I have been blessed for being her husband… I’m just a humble man trying to find purpose and trying to succeed.” 

He went on to thank his children and various other family members as well as those in his “church body” who were in attendance. 

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss was in attendance and enjoyed the event and was pleased to see recognition for the leaders who were honored. 

“I think it was fabulous,“ Bliss said. “I think it’s always wonderful to elevate amazing people in our community who are trailblazers and mentors and really just exceptional leaders.” And the takeaway she desires students will remember: “My hope is that they’re inspired. That they see themselves in a lot of the people that they heard speak tonight and they recognize that they, too, can make a huge impact.” 

GRCC President Bill Pink gave opening remarks and said a prayer prior to dinner being served. (Sabrina Edwards/The Collegiate)

GRCC President Bill Pink had nothing but admiration and praise for the award bestowed upon Moody.

“He means a lot to our college as a graduate and a member of our foundation,” Pink said. “(There is) no one more deserving.” 

With careful consideration of his final words, Moody had this to say in parting: “Giants are selected. But a real giant… a real giant brings purpose and values to life.” 

Following the announcement of Moody as the Giant Among Giants, he was inundated with congratulations and admiration from friends and family. (Sabrina Edwards/The Collegiate)

Thirteen other awards were handed out to Giants who were recognized for outstanding leadership and servanthood. 

The Floyd Skinner Justice Award – Michelle Smith-Lowe

“It is a great honor to me to be a lawyer,” Smith-Lowe said, “because not very long ago, even in my lifetime, practicing law was a challenge for African Americans, especially women.”

Talking about her work as a public prosecutor she said, “I am honored to work for an office that, while we often must enforce the law with grit, we also do so with grace and integrity that has earned our office the respect and credibility of the judges, law enforcement, and even the attorneys against whom we practice.”

The Walter Coe Public Service Award Ovell R. Barbee, Jr.

“As a product of the Grand Rapids community, I have directly benefited from the actions of others who have invested in me,” Barbee said.

Barbee challenged the audience to be active participants for change: “As we have opportunities to address an inequity or something that makes us uncomfortable, I encourage each of you to use your voice as a catalyst for change.”

The Eugene Browning Medical Service Award Clarence Teddy Henderson

“I am a witness that when you put God first in your life and use the gift he has given you, you, too, will be a giant,” Henderson said. 

The W.W. Plummer Humanitarian Award Eddie T.L. Tadlock

In his acceptance speech, Tadlock reflected on when he attended his first Giant Awards Ceremony a number of years ago, noting that it left quite an impression on him. 

“At that moment, I knew that I needed to find a path to service in my newly adopted community,” Tadlock commented. “Since then, I have had the opportunity to learn from, listen to, lean on, and work amongst many Giants in Grand Rapids,” later adding that he was “truly humbled” to be named amidst the numerous Giants. 

The Ethel Coe Humanities Award Eddie L. Stephens, Jr. 

“I want to acknowledge Ethel Coe for setting the standard in performing and visual arts worthy of having this award named for her,” Stephens said via video message from California where he is participating in rehearsals for an upcoming production. 

Stephens urged people to further efforts for opportunities in the arts. “(I) encourage you to support our young people in performing arts,” he said, later noting that the benefits of performing arts include “leadership, collaboration, time management, and critical thinking” to name a few. 

In Stephens’ absence, his mother and sister accepted the award on his behalf. 

The Milo Brown Business Award Crystal T. Hardley

“Thank God who is the author and finisher of my faith,” Hardley said, “I could do nothing without his divine guidance.” 

She continued on to thank the selection committee, saying that she is “beyond grateful” to receive this award and appreciated the recognition for her work ethic and commitment to the community. 

The Phyllis Scott Activist Award Misti L. Stanton

For Stanton, The Phyllis Scott Activist Award comes with great familial heritage. She made mention of the fact that Phyllis Scott hired her father after he returned home from the war in Vietnam when no one else would. Thus starting him on a path for a “successful career as an educator.” The connections don’t stop there. 

“In the Giants inaugural year, my uncle, Carl Smith, received the very first Phyllis Scott Activist Award,” Stanton said. “I have worked hard to continue to embody his legacy by encouraging and empowering youth in our community.” 

The William Glenn Trailblazer Award Judge Christina Elmore

Elmore was appointed to the 61st District Court in 2016 where she continues to serve as a judge. She thanked her family for their support in her endeavors. 

“I am abundantly aware I wouldn’t be able to do the important work I do without your trust and backing,” Elmore said. 

The Raymond Tardy Community Service Award Angela D. Nelson

“First and foremost, thank you God,” Nelson said triumphantly. “As a believer, I know where my blessings come from. I am so grateful for every brick and paver You have firmly set before me, creating a masterfully designed trail for me to blaze.”

Nelson went on to express her appreciation for the legacy that the namesake of this award has left on the community, “He did what we all wish to do which is carve our names on the hearts of people and use our life and influence to stand for something that will outlast it.” 

The H.C. Toliver Religious Life Award James Lee Abney, Sr. 

Abney began by thanking the Lord for his “mercy and loving kindness.”  He then used the lyrics of Rev. Paul Jones to finish his speech.

“I’ve had some good days,” Abney sang with a deep, distinguished voice. ”I’ve had some hills to climb. I’ve had some weary days, and some sleepless nights. But when I look around and I think things over, all of my good days outweigh my bad days. I won’t complain.”

The Hattie Beverly Education Award Jerry F. McComb

McComb acknowledged that his extensive tenure within the Grand Rapids Public School system has shaped who he is as he was required to take on numerous positions.

“It was a joy, a challenge and my pleasure to be a dad, granddad, counselor, uncle, doctor, nurse, coach, family facilitator, and preacher,” McComb said.  

The Martha Reynolds Labor Award Larry Donston

“I can say that there have been many who have helped mold my journey,” Donston said, acknowledging a few, “teachers, professors, coaches, and community members contributed to my development.”

Leaders within the community, these Giants encompass “integrity, commitment, and perseverance.” (Sabrina Edwards/The Collegiate)

Giants accepted their awards in person while all speeches were given via pre-recorded video messages

Junior Giant Leadership Scholarship Awards were presented to two students who demonstrated the “essence” of a Giant. 

The Cedric Ward Leadership Scholarship Award went to Alexandria Vaughn-Earvin, a senior at Forest Hills Central High School.

The Dr. Patricia Pulliam Leadership Scholarship Award went to Brandon Fuller, a senior at Hope College.