Dee Ford Byas

Celebrating the life and legacy of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. included a breakfast, honoring community
leaders, and recognizing scholarship recipients whose interests reflect that of the civil rights leader.
The 37th annual Arizona Awards Celebration and Scholarship Breakfast, was held in person on the morning of Jan. 13,
at the Phoenix Convention Center. A buffet of MLK Award honorees were recognized.
“Today, we commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., while celebrating community leaders,” said
Valerie Churchwell, Arizona MLK Celebration co-chair.
She congratulated Elizabeth Paulus, Wen Chyi Chiu, Sharise Erby, Cordero Holmes, and Dr. Will Moreland for their
examples of courage, truth, respect, integrity, humility, and service.
The program’s theme focused around believing and living the dream envisioned by King Jr. Dignitaries and leaders
included Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, Phoenix City Manager Jeff Barton, Seventh-District
Congressman Ruben Gallego, and more.
Amazon was among major sponsors of the event, which was held virtually the last two years due to the pandemic.
Except for taped speeches of gratitude from students, attendees were pleased to finally see each other in person.
“Although our two years of virtual programs were applauded across the country as the best they’ve ever witnessed, it is
good to be back in person,” said Ron Williams, Arizona MLK Committee Events and Activities co-chair.
Noting the honorees’ examples in volunteering, he mentioned the importance of following the example set by King Jr. in
serving the community. Honorees were likened to “disrupters” like the program’s main sponsor, Amazon.
“We look forward to celebrating these disruptors today,” said Williams.
One of the honorees, Dr. Will Moreland, a veteran turned entrepreneur, pointed out how the life and work of King Jr.
inspired him. While noting King Jr.’s sentiment how “anybody can make a difference in the world,” Moreland encouraged
service and civility.
“Be a leader in the community,” Moreland said.
Dr. Gene C. Blue, Arizona MLK Celebration committee chair, acknowledged guests and honorees, while also making a
special effort to acknowledge those who were considered “unsung heroes.”
Recognizing the sacrifices and lessons of King Jr., Barton noted how he and the civil rights leader both graduated from
Morehouse College. Crediting his grandmother for instilling in him a desire to serve others, Barton was pleased to have
achieved the many goals and challenges set before him.
He gave honor to his family, which sacrificed for him to be the man he is today serving in the city manager’s role.
“He sacrificed for family. He sacrificed his life because it was the right thing to do,” said Barton, noting a common
interest of service.

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