Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Distinguished Memphians honored with the Memphis Heritage Trailblazer Award

Some of the trailblazers included Joyce Blackmon (left), Beverly Robertson,
Ruby Bright and Jocelyn Wurzburg. (Photos by Isaac Singleton)
“On my radio program every Sunday, I always start off with ‘Tell the Lord thank you,’” said Markhum “Mark” L. Stansbury Sr., a longtime luminary who has made his mark at WDIA-AM 1070, the first radio station in the U.S. that was programmed for African Americans.
Stansbury is a history-maker whose storied career runs the gamut from radio personality to university administrator to interim college president to photojournalist to newspaper reporter to serving on prominent boards to community service and more.
He has been the recipient of several awards too – including the latest one that he and 27 other distinguished Memphians received for “advancing civil and human rights and carrying the torch to uphold its African-American History and Culture.”
Markhum "Mark" L. Stansbury Sr. was one of 28 Memphis
who received the trailblazer award. Paul Young, director of
Housing and Community Development, and Felicia Harris,
Memphis's Planning and Development manager, flank him.
The city of Memphis and the Division of Housing and Community Development presented the “trailblazers” with the Memphis Heritage Trailblazer Award on Dec. 7 at the Halloran Centre For Performing Arts & Education.
The award was named for the Memphis Heritage Trail, a historic 60-block redevelopment area in downtown Memphis, which is considered the epicenter of African-American history, heritage and culture.  
“We are extremely excited about the Memphis Heritage Trail project and it has been eight years of planning to get us where we are today,” said Felicia Harris, the city’s Planning and Development manager. “It is important for us to pay homage to those individuals who have fought and continue to fight for civil and human rights.”
In addition to Stansbury, the award also went to Yvonne and David Acey, Ekundayo Bandele, Joyce Blackmon, Ruby Bright, Atty. Mike Cody, Erma Clanton, 
Fred Davis, 
Bishop William Graves, the Rev. Dr. L. LaSimba M. Gray Jr., Happy Jones
, Marion Mitchell and Robert Lipscomb, the former HCD director who led the Heritage Trail project at the onset
. Paul Young is the current HCD director.
Clanton, a playwright, lyricist and former schoolteacher, started saluting trailblazers in 2003; and each February at New Sardis Baptist Church, a dozen or more Memphians are honored with the “Living Legends Award.”
At 93, Clanton is more inclined to shower praises on others and honor them than accept the honor she’s long overdue. “It was a collection of black and white citizens who’ve made a contribution to Memphis,” she said. “It just encourages me at my age to do more.”
The other trailblazers included Dr. James Netters, Atty. Charlie Newman, O C Pleasant Jr., Diane Rudner, James “D’eke” Pope, Beverly Robertson, Dr. Coby Smith, Judge Russell Sugarmon, Calvin Taylor
, Henry Turley
, Elaine Lee Turner, 
Rosalind Withers
, Jocelyn Wurzburg, and Jan Young.
“Society has so much to thank these individuals for,” said Mayor Jim Strickland. “These recipients come from all walks of life and have sacrificed to make a better Memphis for us all.”
 “I just want to tell Him thank you for putting me in a position to be able to speak out for those who didn’t have a voice and couldn’t,” said Stansbury, who doesn’t mind sharing the spotlight with those who’ve also made contributions to society.
He credits the late international photojournalist Ernest C. Withers Sr. for stepping up to the plate as his mentor in photography. Rosalind Withers, who is blazing a trail as executive director of the Withers Collection Museum & Gallery, is carrying on her father’s legacy.
“It’s an honor to pick up the torch and make his (Ernest Withers) body of work a part of our own every day lives,” said Rosalind Withers, who calls herself a legacy builder. “People know the work, but it’s my duty to make sure that people know the name.”
It takes a lot of effort and persistence to build and secure a legacy, said Withers, which was, without a doubt, one of the reasons she was tapped to receive the city’s first trailblazer award.  
“The job I’m doing is one of a kind,” she said.
For many, the plaudits keep coming.

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