The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville & Buncombe County hosted its annual Candlelight Ceremony at Trinity Episcopal Church on Monday, January 18, 2021.
The event was chaired by Association Board member, Dr. Elizabeth Colton. Rev. Dr. R. Scott White of Trinity Episcopal offered the invocation, with Rev. Dr. Byron Wade, newly appointed General Presbyter of the Presbytery of WNC, as keynote speaker.
The Tried Stone Missionary Baptist Church Choir provided music, including Regina Blount and Stephen Blount, C. Pamela Lowe-Hoyte, MD, Otho Hoyte, PhD, and Trinity Episcopal organist Sharon Carleton Boon. Pastor Apostle Joseph “J” Hackett of New Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church offered the Benediction.
Community Service Awards Presented
MLK Association Board President Dr. Oralene Simmons and Board Secretary Ms. JéWana Grier-McEachin presented awards to six outstanding community members who have dedicated themselves to the cause of social justice. Awardees included:
- Kimberly Floyd, Site Manager at the Vance Birthplace State Historic Site, was recognized for her tireless work to increase the historical accuracy of the programming offered at the site. The former plantation includes slave quarters and greatly improved interpretation and education of the slave-dependent economy and life of the historic home in Buncombe County.
- Pastor Apostle Joseph “J” Hackett is Pastor of New Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church and Executive Director of Jordan Peer Recovery, Inc., a nonprofit with the mission to transform lives by creating a highly competent, culturally aware, and diverse peer recovery workforce.
- Tamiko Ambrose Murray, founder of Ambrose Consulting, supports organizations seeking transformative change through their work toward social justice. In collaboration with Tepeyac Consulting, she co-designed the Spiral of Transformative Change: A Liberatory Approach to Racial Equity.
- Hanan Shabazz is the Chef at Southside Kitchen, where she cooks for anyone who needs a meal, and lends her knowledge and culinary expertise to Benne on Eagle, where the menu pays homage to the African American roots of Southern food.
- Robert (Rob) Thomas, Jr., Community Liaison for the Racial Justice Coalition of Asheville, centers his work around advocating for those most impacted by the inequities of the criminal justice system. The Racial Justice Coalition was formed to solidify a local commitment to racial equity and to advocate for the rights of people of color with law enforcement through policy change, education, and relationship building.
- Dena Whalen is the vicar of the Church of the Advocate and leads the diocesan ministry to Asheville’s homeless and economically marginalized community. She has built a legacy of service to marginalized communities through the establishment of food pantries, tutoring, pastoral care, fellowship, and the hosting of residential ministry groups.
Kimberly Floyd manages the preservation and interpretation of the former plantation, including seven historic buildings, as well as the visitor center and museum. Kimberly has worked in the field of public history for fifteen years. She completed her master’s in public history from North Carolina State University in 2008 and has continued to work in museums and historic sites. Kimberly has served as the Assistant Manager and Historic Interpreter at Historic Stagville, site of the largest plantation in North Carolina, and as the Assistant Director of the City of Raleigh Museum. She has managed the research and design of numerous permanent and temporary exhibitions and maintained artifact collections across local and state agencies.
Pastor Apostle Joseph “J” Hackett earned his bachelor’s degree from UNC Asheville and additionally holds a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Duke University. J previously served as the Executive Director of Trimm International Foundation and as the Executive Director of Green Opportunities. In addition, he is Pastor of New Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Asheville. An entrepreneur at heart, J’s latest venture is Grind Coffee Co., which is not only dedicated to confections, but also to hosting events that focus on social justice. J is an expert in social entrepreneurship, community and economic development and discovering purpose. Most recently, J was awarded the first Black Entrepreneurial Council Grant from NCIDEA to help grow Black Wall Street here in Western North Carolina.
Ms. Tamiko Ambrose Murray is the founder and lead consultant of Ambrose Consulting. She supports grassroots groups, nonprofits, and foundations who seek transformative change through their work toward social justice. In collaboration with Tepeyac Consulting, Tamiko co- designed a leading-edge racial equity framework, the Spiral of Transformative Change: A Liberatory Approach to Racial Equity. Tamiko co-facilitates transformational racial equity processes across the state and nationally. A writer, community researcher, cultural practitioner and racial equity strategist, Tamiko’s areas of work have included nonprofit leadership, academia, community organizing, participatory research and cultural work. In 2011, Tamiko co- founded Asheville Writers in the Schools and Community, a nonprofit that empowers Black and Latinx youth to experience racial healing through the written word and other artforms. Tamiko currently serves on the boards of the Tzedek Social Justice Fund and Alternate ROOTS, a southeast regional coalition of artists, activists and cultural workers.
Ms. Hanan Shabazz is the Chef at Southside Kitchen where she spends her days cooking for anyone who needs a meal. Hanan also lends her knowledge and culinary expertise to Benne on Eagle, where the menu pays homage to the African American roots of Southern food. Hanan feels driven to keep nurturing the Southside community, to continue her work sharing the history of Black Appalachian foodways, honoring tradition while sharing practical skills like canning in the name of food sovereignty. In the early ’70s Hanan opened Shabazz Restaurant in the Ritz building on S. Market St., where she cooked beans, pies, whiting fish and traditional Southern food without pork. The Southern Foodways Alliance awarded Shabazz its annual Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award, honoring her as a visionary and a foodways tradition bearer of note. SFA released a documentary about Hanan’s life last Fall.
Mr. Robert (Rob) Thomas, Jr. is a 33-year-old native of Asheville, NC. He is an experienced community leader with a knack for innovation, who centers his work around advocating for those most impacted by the inequities of the criminal justice system. As a former justice- involved individual himself, he understands the negative impacts and disparities faced by people of color in the carceral system. With over 10 years of direct experience, Robert has now narrowed his focus to racial justice, decarceration, and activism around police accountability. In addition, Robert is the newly named Community Liaison for the Racial Justice Coalition of Asheville, which was formed to solidify a local commitment to racial equity and to advocate for the rights of people of color with law enforcement through policy change, education, and relationship building. Rob is also a partner in, Thomas and Smith Consulting and Editing, LLC., a minority-owned consulting firm.
Rev. Dena Whalen is the vicar of the Church of the Advocate and leads the diocesan ministry to Asheville’s homeless and economically marginalized community. Rev. Whalen is a graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary in 1992 and earned her doctorate in 2018 in congregational development. Since arriving in Asheville, Rev. Whalen has worked to deepen the ties between The Church of the Advocate and Trinity Episcopal Church. Rev. Whalen works from the belief that the Eucharist is the hub of ministry that springs from the radical hospitality of Jesus. Rev. Whalen served several different church communities in Florida and South Carolina before coming to North Carolina, first landing in Wilmington and then making the move to the mountains. Rev. Whalen leaves a legacy of service to marginalized communities through the establishment of food pantries, tutoring, pastoral care, fellowship, and the hosting of residential ministry groups.
A program can be found at bit.ly/MLKAshevlleProgram. Like all of the year’s celebratory events, the Candlelight Service was held on a virtual platform and is available for viewing on the Association’s YouTube channel at youtu.be/sOXsB_eRSM0.
The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Association would like to thank the community for their continued support. Additional information about the Association, their work, and opportunities to be involved may be found at www.mlkasheville.org.