November 10, 2015

Oakwood University Church Gives First Social Justice Award to U.S. Congressman

The Oakwood University Church has given U.S. Congressman John Lewis its inaugural social justice award at a ceremony that culminated a weeklong Ellen G. White symposium on social justice.

Lewis, a decades-long champion of U.S. civil rights, was one of the leaders of a march across a bridge in Selma, Alabama, that ended in violence when he and others were attacked by law enforcement authorities on March 7, 1965. Last March, Lewis joined U.S. President Barack Obama in walking across the bridge on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, as the day is now known.

“Congressman Lewis was recognized for his efforts in promoting social justice for all people regardless of color, race, ethnicity, or religion,” Carlton P. Byrd, senior pastor of the Oakwood University Church, told the Adventist Review.

People rose to their feet in the packed church in Huntsville, Alabama, when Byrd introduced Lewis, 75, as the recipient of the 2015 Social Justice Award on Oct. 31, local WHNT television reported. Lewis, who was presented with a plaque and a large picture of himself, gave a speech that moved many in the audience to tears, it said.

The Oakwood University Church, located on the campus of the Seventh-day Adventist Church-operated Oakwood University, traditionally recognizes people during the month of February, Black History Month, for their roles in helping all of humanity with specificity to black history, Byrd, said.

“This year was our inaugural year in seeking to add the ‘social justice’ component in the month of October,” he said.

The Ellen G. White Research Center on the campus of Oakwood University held a weeklong symposium on social justice from Oct. 17 to 24. The church, in harmony with this symposium, culminated this theme with the honoring of Lewis, Byrd said.

White is one of the cofounders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

For Black History Month this year, the Oakwood University Church presented its 2015 Black History Achievement Award to Sybrina Fulton, the mother of the late Trayvon Martin.

Martin, 17, was shot dead in Florida in 2012 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, who was acquitted of wrongdoing the following year, prompting protests and a nationwide discussion about racial equality.