Champions of multiculturalism receive NCCJ Citation AwardsBy Yasmine Regester / November 17, 2017
Share this article:
The National Conference for Community and Justice of the Piedmont Triad, Inc. (NCCJ) held its 51st Annual Brotherhood/Sisterhood Citation Awards Dinner on November 9 at the Koury Convention Center.
The annual awards dinner is a multicultural sharing of community, businesses and faith-based organizations all coming together for one common cause of creating a compassionate community free of racism and bigotry. The event also honors individuals who have made significant contributions to making their communities better places.
This year’s honorees included faith-based leaders, Dr. Thomas S. Haggai of High Point and Rev. Julie Peeples of Greensboro.
“Thanks to extraordinary people of all races and backgrounds, our community looks a lot different from how it did in the past,” said Ivan Canada, executive director of NCCJ of the Piedmont Triad.
Celebrating 80 years of community leadership, NCCJ is a human relations organization that works to promote understanding and respect among all cultures, races and religions through advocacy, education and dialogue.
“While we have made great strides, there’s still so much more work to do to build a world free of bigotry, racism and hatred,” said Canada.
Founding pastor of Emerywood Baptist Church, Dr. Haggai was honored for his longtime dedication to the betterment of his adopted hometown of High Point. He has worked extensively in High Point and around the world to promote education, entrepreneurship, religious tolerance, and cross-cultural understanding.
A renowned motivational speaker and radio personality, he served for 20 years as chairman and CEO of IGA Global and led its robust worldwide expansion. Haggai was instrumental in forming the Business Roundtable, a group whose efforts to chart the best path for the city’s future helped define downtown High Point’s success. For 52 years, the Thomas Haggai and Associates Foundation granted scholarships to train nontraditional students as elementary school teachers. In 2016, the Foundation distributed the last of its funds to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to endow a new program for that purpose.
Haggai has received many honorary degrees and awards, including High Point’s Distinguished Citizen of the Year award, the Horatio Alger Association’s Norman Vincent Peale Award, and the Food Marketing Institutes’ Herbert Hoover Award.
“I’m here because my parents had me around the right people,” said Haggai, who credited his devotion to people to his upbringing and his parents’ intolerance of discrimination and racism.
“I appreciate the award, but I appreciate even more what NCCJ does for the community,” Haggai added.
Rev. Peeples has served as senior pastor of Congregational United Church of Christ since the early 1990s, growing it into one of Greensboro’s most diverse congregation. She regularly mobilizes her congregation and the Triad’s faith community to take action on issues including racial equity, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, worker’s rights, hunger relief, healthcare, and immigration.
More recently, Peeples opened her church to provide sanctuary for an immigrant family. She was also instrumental in founding the Greensboro Faith Leaders Council, the Greensboro Congregational Assistance Network, and Mustard Seed Community Health, and has worked with many other community organizations. She is the recipient of several awards, including the United Church of Christ’s Antoinette Brown Award, Equality NC’s Bob Page Equality Champion for the Triad Region Award, and the Greensboro Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs Sojourner Truth Award.
“To be recognized is very special,” said Peeples, who reminded the audience that the work of NCCJ is still needed.
“As long as there are still people around us that think some people’s children are less than other people’s children then we still need NCCJ. We need to be sanctuary for each other. Remind each other we’re not alone and we are led by a God who cares,” she said.
The organization also works to fight bias, bigotry, and racism in America through its weeklong residential summer youth program called ANYTOWN, for high school juniors and seniors. ANYTOWN graduates delivered a presentation at the awards dinner following the theme of being the future leaders of tomorrow, highlighting the community building initiatives they are implementing in their schools.
Ursula Dudley Oglesby, NCCJ board chair noted that everyone in the room was there because of their passion to build an inclusive community.
“The work of building an inclusive community starts in small ways. I am so grateful for our community and what we’ve built together,” said Oglesby.
For more information on NCCJ, visit www.nccjtriad.org.