Six community leaders will be honored by the Buffalo Branch of the NAACP at the 44th annual Medgar Evers Awards Banquet at 6 p.m. June 10 in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
This year's keynote speaker is labor leader and international activist Cliff Suggs, president and CEO of Suggs & Associates, a minority enterprise that promotes culturally competent workforces.
Suggs, a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War, has 40 years of experience in labor education and was selected by the State Department to teach conflict resolution in South Africa.
The names of the award recipients are submitted by community members, said Madeline O. Scott, secretary of the Buffalo Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
"It's always based off their volunteer work," Scott said. "The work they've done is voluntary, not something their employers send them out to do."
This year's award recipients are:
* Medgar Evers Civil Rights Award -- Rod Watson, urban affairs editor and weekly columnist for The Buffalo News. He spent 12 years as a member of The News' Editorial Board and has won both industry and community awards for his columns and editorials. He also serves as president of the Buffalo Association of Black Journalists and coordinator of its youth journalism program.
* Rufus Frasier Human Relations Award -- Mary Kirkland and Lynne Schuster, co-founders of the Buffalo & Erie County Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. For more than 30 years, Kirkland and Schuster have aided individuals in need of mental health intervention, and promoted mental health support and advocacy. They have sponsored Christmas Is for Kids for 21 years, helping children spending the holiday at facilities such as the Western New York Children's Psychiatric Center, BryLin Hospitals and Erie County Medical Center.
* Daniel Acker Community Service Award -- Michael Rivera, board president for Erie Regional Housing Development Corp./The Belle Center. Rivera also serves as a board member for WNED and Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled. He served for more than 38 years at the University at Buffalo, causing Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown to declare Dec. 30 as Michael Rivera Day.
* Youth Award -- Jasmine Foster, a school leader and community volunteer, is a 2012 graduate of Buffalo Seminary. She has volunteered more than 300 hours of service to the Boys & Girls Club of Western New York, the Independent Health Foundation and Hospice Buffalo. At school, she served as president of the science club, was a presenter at the University at Buffalo Step Day of Service and a student ambassador at the statewide step conference.
* Youth Award -- Brice Beathley, an Eagle Scout and member of New Bethel Community Church, who will be entering his senior year at Hutchinson-Central Technical High School. He is the first Eagle Scout for Troop 237 and earlier won the Arrow of Light Award, the highest Cub Scout honor. He has volunteered with the African-American Cultural Center, the City Mission and the Salvation Army. He also is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers.
Frank B. Mesiah, president of the Buffalo Branch NAACP, will give a welcoming speech. Kendra Eaglin, a journalist at WKBW-TV, will be emcee.
Tickets are $50. Reservations must be made in advance and can be obtained by calling the NAACP office at 884-7242.