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Emmanuel-Brinklow Honors Living Legends

Story by Taashi Rowe; photos by Taashi Rowe and Roy Thomas
Published 2/29/12

Each year for the past seven years, Allegheny East’s Emmanuel Brinklow church in Ashton, Md., has hosted a special program that celebrates three people who have made a positive impact on the world. Last Sabbath under the theme “Am I My Brother’s Keeper,” the church again honored three more at its Living Legends Awards for Service to Humanity program. Bob Zellner, whose parents were once members of the Klu Klux Klan, became a civil rights activist after interviewing Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks for a sociology paper. Zellner, then a college student, was struck by something Parks told him: “When you see something wrong, you have to make a stand for it. You can’t study it forever.” Zellner went on to become the first white field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee—a notable civil rights group.

Upon receiving his award, Barry Black, the first Seventh-day Adventist and first African-American chaplain of the U.S. Senate, said he was happy to be loved and celebrated by his own Adventist family. Black, a staunch advocate of Adventist education who, along with his wife, has helped pay the tuitions of several students to Adventist institutions, added that, “If you are a legend and not serving humanity, you are only a legend in your mind.” He listed his mother, Pearline Black; his wife, Brenda; Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Jesus Christ as his four sources of inspiration for service.



“This is my Academy Award,” said Dennis Banks, one of the founders of the American Indian Movement, as he accepted his award. “I may receive another award down the road but nothing can top this one!” As an activist, Banks has fought to protect the rights of native nations, renew spirituality among the tribes and create opportunities for native Americans. Banks spoke of injustice and oppression happening not just in the United States, but also across the world and noted, “It is our mandatory duty to keep going forward and never lay down in the face of the enemy.” Banks is also an advocate for health and has walked across the United States seven times.

Organized by Doreen Hines, the program’s executive director, and Markus Williams, the program’s artistic director, the evening also featured inspiring music, a short documentary and poetry.