The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga will honor a local business, community and individual next Wednesday at the 35th annual Equal Opportunity Day breakfast.
Those selected for championing equal opportunity, civil rights and social justice include BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, winner of the Corporate Award for Inclusion by Design; the Chattanooga Innovation District, the recipient of the Community Impact Award, and LaFrederick M. Thirkill, who was picked for this year's Whitney M. Young Jr. Award given to an individual.
"The Equal Opportunity Day breakfast is a communitywide celebration of inclusiveness, and our award recipients epitomize the essence of inclusion and diversity," said Warren E. Logan Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga.
Logan said the winners "have shown their support of our community through their commitment to embrace diversity, improve our quality of life and demonstrate top-notch leadership."
The Corporate Award for Inclusion by Design recognizes an organization that embraces inclusion through its business practices and community engagement activities. As one of the largest employers in Chattanooga and the largest health benefit plan company in Tennessee, BlueCross showcases its belief in inclusion and diversity through the culture and mission of the organization.
"We strongly believe that our business should fully reflect the people we serve every day," said JD Hickey, president and chief executive officer of BlueCross. "It's a major part of what drives our service, hiring and other decisions."
The Community Impact Award, awarded to the Chattanooga Innovation District, recognizes an organization that elevates the community's standard of living and contributes to the overall quality of life.
An innovation district is an area where start-ups can connect with leading-edge institutions and companies, and Chattanooga is the first mid-sized city with an established innovation district. Under the leadership of Ken Hays and the Enterprise Center, the Chattanooga Innovation District has grown to host a number of start-up businesses, incubators and accelerators.
Thirkill, an elementary school principal, was selected for the Whitney M. Young award because of his role in raising awareness of the story of Ed Johnson, a young black man who was murdered by a lynch mob in Chattanooga in 1906. After reading an article about the book "Contempt of Court," Thirkill became interested in the Johnson story and visited the cemetery where Johnson was buried.
He later met Leroy Phillips, one of the authors of "Contempt of Court," and together, the two worked to inform the public about the story. In 2006, Thirkill wrote, directed and produced "Dead Innocent, The Ed Johnson Story" and donated the proceeds to start an Ed Johnson Memorial Scholarship at the Community Foundation for local students majoring in criminal justice.
The awards will be presented at the Equal Opportunity Day breakfast on Wednesday, Oct. 18 from 7:30 a.m. until 9 a.m. at the Chattanooga Convention Center. The breakfast will feature John Hope Bryant, founder and chief executive officer of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Ventures.
Individual tickets can be purchased online at Eventbrite.com for $75 and all proceeds support the Urban League's empowerment programs. Ticket information is available online at www.ulchatt.net or by contacting Lily Sanchez at 423-756-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.