Racial Harmony of Belleville honored its ELITE winners during a dinner and auction Sunday evening at Fischer’s restaurant.
ELITE stands for Extraordinary Leaders Impacting Today’s Environment. The winners were recognized for extraordinary work in schools, churches, families and communities. The names of 22 award winners — 17 individuals and five organizations, including the Belleville News-Democrat — were announced and recognized by an audience of nearly 200.
The evening’s featured speaker was Stefan Bradley, a professor of history and director of African-American studies at St. Louis University.
In his speech, entitled “Embracing Dissonance on the Path to Racial Harmony,” Bradley urged his audience to listen to the voices of youth, such as the protestors who who chanted “Black lives matter” during last year’s unrest in Ferguson, Mo.
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“I charge that we’ll never reach racial harmony if we don’t hear those young people,” Bradley said.
Bradley noted how people of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds had joined together as allies to protest racial inequality.
“But that strategy of standing with your friends has to be taken strategically and with care,” said Bradley, who added that whites shouldn’t have to surrender their “white privilege” or apologize for it.
“I need my white ally to use that privilege to help those who are not privileged,” he said. “That’s what I need.”
And he urged white allies to keep alive the issues propelling the “Black lives matter” movement by those issues to the workplace, family gatherings and sporting events.
“Your black friends need you to take the struggle to those places,” he said.
Racial Harmony ELITE Award recipients announced Sunday were as follows:
Businesses and organizations receiving awards:
Belleville News-Democrat, Jay Tebbe, President
Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, or CASA of Southern Illinois, Mechiko White, Executive Director
McKendree University, Dr. James Dennis, President
Metro Area Professional Organization, Dr. Dorothy Owens, President
Regions Bank, Joe Rossi, Branch Sales