Genesee District Library celebrates local leaders at 23rd Annual Black History Month Brunch

FLINT, Michigan — On Saturday, Feb. 3, the Genesee District Library will host its 23rd Annual Black History Month Brunch at the Genesys Conference & Banquet Center in Grand Blanc at 10 AM. The brunch is known for highlighting the experiences of local change-makers working hard to make a difference in the community.

“We believe that the experiences of the honorees and speakers will inspire people to go forth and do their best in their own little corner of the world. We also want people to leave feeling happy after a morning of good conversation and good food,” said Kelly Flynn, Community Relations Manager at the Genesee District Library.

Originally founded at the first Black History Month Brunch in 2002, the Award of Excellence is an opportunity for community members to nominate individuals or organizations for their strides in community service and impact. This year, the Genesee District Library has named three Award of Excellence recipients: Dwayne “Wayne the Barber” Harrington, Sr., Isaiah Oliver, and Pastor Kevin Thompson, Sr. 
  • Dwayne Harrington, Sr.: Harrington is the owner of Dwayne’s Barbershop in Flint, and is a master barber with 24 years of experience. Harrington is a long-time philanthropist, focusing his efforts on mentoring and inspiring youth and providing free grooming to those in need. He is the creator of 'How the Clippers Saved My Life,' a 6-12 week mentoring program that teaches troubled youth to become productive members of the community. He partners with Carriage Town Ministries and Baker College to provide free grooming events. He and his team also set up a pop-up hair studio at the Flint & Genesee Job & Resource Fair to give free haircuts and styles to job seekers.
Isaiah Oliver.
  • Isaiah Oliver: Oliver served as the president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint for six years. He also served as president of the Flint Public Schools Board, treasurer of the Hurley Medical Center Board of Directors, served on the McLaren Home Care Board, the Flint and Genesee Group Board, and the Uptown Redevelopment Corporation Board. He is currently serving as president of the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida.
Pastor Kevin Thompson, Sr.
  • Pastor Kevin Thompson, Sr.: During the Flint water crisis, Pastor Thompson set up a water center at St. Mark Baptist Church, providing water, baby formula, water filters, and other resources. He also leads biweekly food distribution and after-school tutorial services for children. He has worked on suicide prevention awareness, provided back-to-school supplies to kids, and hosted many community cookouts. He is an accomplished musician, director, and songwriter and has served as an accompanist for the Flint Institute of Music School of Performing Arts.
The Partner in Progress award will go to Bethel United Methodist Church, for its extensive service to the people of Genesee County. 

Led by Reverend Naylo Hopkins, Bethel United Methodist Church celebrated its 100th anniversary in November of 2022. They offer weekly food and water distribution and host clothing drives. They provide job opportunities and adult and youth education and training meetings.
Reverend Naylo Hopkins.
The church facilitates the Bethel Health Center three days a week and provides after-school tutoring and summer youth programs such as The Freedom School and the Peckham Youth Program. It also fed 300 families for the Thanksgiving holiday and hosted an annual back-to-school rally to give away free backpacks and school supplies in September.

Aside from celebrating the community impact made by this year’s recipients, those in attendance can expect to hear the familiar voice of ABC12 news anchor Matt Franklin as the event’s emcee. Attendees can also look forward to enjoying an inspirational keynote speech by the founding partner at the national law firm, The Hatchett Firm, and TV personality Judge Glenda Hatchett. 

“This year's keynote speaker is Judge Glenda Hatchett, the first African-American State Court Chief Justice and TV personality,” said Flynn. “She will likely talk about how she got where she is today. As a sitting judge, she may also discuss recent setbacks such as the ruling of the Supreme Court on Affirmative action. We also hope she has positive suggestions for moving forward.” 
Judge Glenda Hatchett.
According to Flynn, there will be a performance by the Kuungana African Drum & Dance Company, led by Kevin Baba Collins. “This is an inspiring group of dancers who showcase their rich heritage through dance. Also, each of the honorees will speak briefly after they accept their award, and guests will see a short video vignette showcasing their accomplishments.” 

The Black History Month Brunch is sponsored by WJRT ABC12, Genesee Health System, Hamilton Community Health Network, United Way of Genesee County, The Williams Firm, and the Genesee District Library Foundation.

Tickets are $40 each and can be purchased online here.

For community members interested in keeping up with future events and community engagement opportunities, Flynn encourages everyone to stay up to date on library news.

According to Flynn, “The Genesee District Library offers hundreds of programs each year at our 19 branches: story times, authors, technology, STEAM, crafts, concerts, fitness, cooking, magic, nature, animals, gardening, drama, art, puppets, documentaries, chemistry, history, job fairs, resume writing, interview skills, college prep, book sales, reading challenges, and much more.” 

To learn more about upcoming events and programming, please visit their website here. The Genesee District Library can also be found on both Facebook and YouTube.
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Read more articles by Brianna Nargiso.