By SHERRY DIGMON
The Greater Mt. Triumph fellowship hall is usually packed with folks for the annual Rosa Parks Breakfast presented by Lillie Johnson and the Yellow Hat Society. This year, the crowd was noticeably smaller – partly due to the requirement by the Society that proof of Covid vaccination be presented at the door.
Despite a smaller than usual crowd, Saturday, February 5, the spirit of the event was not tainted as Rosa Parks’ legacy was honored and celebrated during the 15th annual breakfast.
Two awards were presented – the Rosa Parks Citizen Award and the Rosa Parks Trail Blazer Citizen Award.
In presenting the 2022 Rosa Parks Citizen Award, Dr. Maurice Moore said this person has been an activist in the Atmore community for years. She takes care of underprivileged children at Christmas, and tends to family, friends and neighbors.
“She is her brother’s keeper,” Dr. Moore said. “She acts out of kindness. She pays attention to the needs of her fellowman. At the end of her workday, she serves others in need of a blessing.”
When Dr. Moore mentioned this year’s recipient is a dispatcher at the Atmore Police Department, most people in the room knew he was talking about Betty Cox, who was totally surprised at receiving the honor.
“This is my first time at the Rosa Parks Breakfast,” Ms. Cox said. “Miss Lillie was so insistent that I come. I’m so glad I came, not just for this [the award].”
She said as she listened to the speakers, her mind went back to when she was a little girl in school. She remembered the day Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, although she didn’t realize the significance at the time.
“The teachers were crying. I didn’t know why,” she said. “I remember just like it was yesterday. Sometimes you don’t realize what things mean until later.”
Rachel Patterson Elementary Principal Toya McMillian presented the 2022 Trailblazer Citizen Award. She talked briefly about the situation in schools today.
“We know how we were raised and how school used to be,” she said. “People have turned away from the Lord. When we took the Lord out of school, things changed. But two things are still the same – God is still good and the value of education is still important.”
Turning her attention to the award, Ms. McMillian said this person makes a difference in the lives of children. He has impacted education in a major way.
The Trail Blazer Award was presenting to Brian Stallworth, a teacher at Rachel Patterson Elementary School. Stallworth was recently presented with WKRG-TV’s Golden Apple Award, which aired on the local station in January. He is the first and only Golden Apple recipient at Rachel Patterson Elementary.
Mr. Stallworth, a man of few words, simply said, “Thank you.”
As he was returning to his seat, he was stopped by Alabama Representative Alan Baker who called him back to the front to present him with a Certificate of Appreciation and congratulations from Gov. Kay Ivey for his Golden Apple Award. Rep. Baker and Mr. Stallworth were joined by Alabama Senator Greg Albritton.
The keynote speaker for the morning was Evergreen Mayor Stanley Stallworth.
“Rosa Parks was a seamstress,” he said. “She saw crooked patterns in racism. She paid her full fare but arrested for not giving up her seat … Ultimately she would be known worldwide. We celebrate her so the next generation will not forget her.”
Atmore Mayor Jim Staff presented Mayor Stallworth with the key to the city.
Dr. Zickeyous Byrd, superintendent, Barbour County School System, served as Master of Ceremony. Also participating in the program were accompanist Herbert “Mannie” Pair; soloist Bro. Charles Wiggins; Greater Mt. Triumph Pastor the Rev. Willie Hawthorne; Eddie Hill, member of the Board of Trustees, Carolina Christian College, Winston-Salem, N.C.; Bridget Golden, teacher, T.R. Miller City Schools, Brewton; Bub Gideons, member of the Yellow Hat Society; Bea Forniss, Community Marketing Specialist, Goodwyn Mills Cawood, Montgomery; Atmore Mayor Jim Staff; Atmore Police Chief Chuck Brooks; Yellow Hat members Shelia Johnson-Williams and Teresa Dees.
Elected officials in attendance were Rep. Alan Baker, Sen. Greg Albritton, School Board members Cindy Jackson, District 4, and Sherry Digmon, District 6.
At the end of the breakfast, Yellow Hat Society President and event coordinator Lillie Johnson noted the smaller than usual crowd.
“Thank you for coming,” she said. “There’s normally so many people here, but this
year, we put a stipulation on attendance.”
Referring to Covid vaccinations, she said, “Folks, we’ve got to do better. Let’s all take our shots.”