Urban League Of Greater Chattanooga Announces Diversity Award Winners

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga has selected three community leaders who have championed equal opportunity, civil rights and social justice. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee (BlueCross) has been selected to receive the Corporate Award for Inclusion by Design, Chattanooga Innovation District is the recipient of the Community Impact Award and LaFrederick M. Thirkill has been awarded the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award.

“The Equal Opportunity Day breakfast is a community-wide 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. “BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Chattanooga’s Innovation District and Mr. Thirkill have shown their support of our community through their commitment to embrace diversity, improve our quality of life and demonstrate top-notch leadership.”

The three award recipients will be honored at the 35th annual Equal Opportunity Day breakfast on Wednesday, Oct. 18, from 7:30-9 a.m. at the Chattanooga Convention Center. John Hope Bryant, founder and chief executive officer of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Ventures, will be the keynote speaker and the event will be chaired by Jeff Jackson, Southeast market president of First Tennessee Bank.

“First Tennessee is proud of those being honored by the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga,” said Mr. Jackson. “Hard work, commitment and integrity always add up to a winning strategy. These are attributes we are proud to share with those who are being honored.”

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. BlueCross mission revolves around a commitment to creating a positive impact through community service that extends beyond the work as a healthcare company.

“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. Doing it right means being intentional about creating a culture that embraces diversity and inclusion as a core belief. We appreciate this recognition of our ongoing efforts.”

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. The Chattanooga Innovation District, located in the heart of downtown, has served as a hub for aspiring entrepreneurs to collaborate with existing companies. 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.

The Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award recognizes outstanding service by an individual or
 group for demonstrated leadership and commitment to the cause of justice, social consciousness and civic involvement. Mr. Thirkill, an elementary school principal, was selected for this 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,” Mr. 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, Mr. 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.

Each year, the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga — as part of the National Urban League movement — celebrates Equal Opportunity Day as a community-wide celebration of inclusiveness. This year’s event theme is “Urbanomics — The Breakdown of Economic Inequality.”

The Urban League’s education programs include an afterschool program, STEM Academy, Project Ready, Job Shadowing sponsored by EPB, National Achievers Society and the Infinite Scholars Scholarship Fair. The Urban League fosters economic empowerment through the Entrepreneurship Center, NextLevel Chattanooga, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, Employment Center and homeownership counseling. In addition, the Urban League offers health and wellness initiatives focused on improving health outcomes for underserved populations.

Individual tickets can be purchased online at Eventbrite.com for $75. All proceeds from the event will support the Urban League’s empowerment programs. For more information or to purchase event tickets, please visit 
www.ulchatt.net or contact Lily Sanchez at (423)756-1762 or lsanchez@ulchatt.net.

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