During Monday’s 11th-annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Breakfast and Awards Event at First United Methodist Church, several members of the Morristown community were honored for their service to diversity.
Erika Martinez Esquivel and Edwin Portillo, representing Recruiting Hispanics To Achieve, a group out of Walters State Community College that strives to increase the number of Hispanic students in post-secondary education, presented the MLK Community Awards to Leigh Anne Fluker, Ignacia Godinez and Yolanda Treece.
Treece is a Morristown-Hamblen High School West graduate – and a local celebrity - who has spent 25 years in local theater, including roles in “Hairspray,” “Sister Act,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Violet.” In her acceptance speech, Treece fought back tears as she thanked the attendees for being honored.
“I didn’t see this coming,” she said. “I knew something was up when (Morristown Task Force on Diversity Chair Dr. Alpha Alexander) wanted my information.”
Treece also told the audience about taking lessons she’s tried to impart to her son Trevan over the years and now, that’s he’s a college student in Memphis, applying them to herself.
“My son is my biggest fan, and my inspiration. He’s the reason I keep going.”
After receiving the award, Treece led the crowd of over 150 to a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” She also performed the national anthem earlier in the ceremony.
Godinez is a native of Hidalgo, Mexico, and currently serves as the quality compliance supervisor at the Colgate-Palmolive facility in Morristown. He has been a part of the RHiTA Community Advisory Council since 2018, and in November of last year, he was part of the team that coordinated the “Quality Week Build a Bike For Charity” activity where Colgate employees built and donated 23 new bicycles to Kingswood Home For Children in Bean Station, Holston Home for Children in Greeneville and Central Services in Morristown.
Fluker, who is the human resources manager at Iatric Manufacturing Solutions, serves as the president of the Jonathan Fluker Memorial Scholarship Fund, which has presented over $20,000 in scholarships to local high school seniors since 2016. Her community service includes working on the Career and Technical Education Advisory Board with Hamblen County Schools, serving as past Board President for CEASE, working with HC*EXCELL’s “Ready by 6” program and Morristown Central Services, serving as secretary for the Progressive Business Association and working with Outside These Walls, a ministry that focuses on sharing the love of God beyond the “four walls” of the church.
Guest speaker the Rev. Renee Kesler said the assignment for all in attendance – as well as the world – is to leave their spaces better than they found them.
“People in the (civil rights movement), even when their lives were at stake, were committed to leaving the world better than they found it,” she said. “Sometimes, that’s a scary thing to do.”
Kesler also said the period King lived in was a terrifying time to fight, which made the bravery of King and those who fought for civil rights alongside him even more amazing.
“So many times we look at the Civil Rights movement in videos on You Tube and on big screens, they set it to music – and it looks like it’s heroic, and looks like it was great,” she said. “Take away the music, and put the dogs in front of you, it was just flat out scary.”
Along with Treece, there were several other musical performances at the ceremony. Brandon Moore, choral teacher at Morristown-Hamblen High School East and director of youth ministries at Trinity United Methodist Church, gave the opening prayer and sang during the event.
Chandler Duke and Dr. Tom Stanton also honored King with musical selections, playing piano and singing. Roxanne Bowen also excited the attendees with her voice during the celebration.