By David Bruce, Contributing Writer
The Morgan County African American Museum’s (MCAAM) second Annual Living Legacy Gala was held Saturday evening at the Variety Works building on West Jefferson St. in celebration of those who have admirably led the way in overcoming diversity here in the South. Geraldine Bell, Rev. W.J. Reid, Mary “Polly” Parks and Rev. Alfred Murray were all selected as the honorees for their victorious, life-long contributions to the community of Madison.
The Honorable Judge Lisa Roberts Reeves served as the Gala’s keynote speaker and was warmly received by the audience for her own leadership in the African American community as well. In addition to receiving a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree from the University of Macon, and a doctorate of Jurisprudence (J.D.) degree from the University School of Law in Athens, Reeves also passed the State Bar Exam and became the first African American to become an Assistant District Attorney and Solicitor General for the Municipal Court for the City of Griffin. She is also the first African American female attorney to open her own law practice, Lisa R. Roberts & Associates, P.C. Among even more of her accomplishments in overcoming diversity, she is currently the only African American Judge in the Coweta Judicial Circuit. “As early as ten years old, it was my goal to be an attorney, which was inspired by early broadcasts of Perry Mason during that time.” Said Reeves. “I was further intrigued with the ability to assist people with legal matters. This ability is double rewarding because I can ensure that justice prevails during the legal process as well as during the judicial process due to my dual roles as a trial attorney and a judge.” Reeves’s accomplishment over diversity made her an excellent speaker for the Gala according to Rev. Fred Perriman, the Mayor of Madison and President of the MCAAM.
Perriman thanked Reeves, the supporters of the MCAAM, and the audience in attendance for their continued support and then introduced each honoree individually. “The Morgan County African American Museum is dedicated to researching, collecting, educating, and preserving the history and art of African American culture.” Perriman stated. “As we highlight and spotlight the individual achievement and contributions of Mrs. Geraldine Belle in the area of education; Rev. Alfred Murray in the areas of community and civic leadership; Mrs. Mary Parks in the area of business; and Rev. W.J. Reid in the area of religion, we are grateful for their involvement and influence within Morgan County and the surrounding communities.” Perriman, Reeves, and the honorees all seemed to agree that an important factor in the African American Community breaking through the barriers of diversity and hardship begins by putting focus on solutions rather than on the problems. “Do we see diversity as an opportunity? What if they [the honorees] had focused only on the problem?” Reeves asked in the middle of her speech. “Look at what happened to the disciples in the storm,” she said, referring to the Biblical account of when Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee for the terrified disciples as recorded in fourth chapter of Mark and the eighth chapter of Matthew. “Those of us who believe in the power of God must believe that our storms of diversity will end.” She said. “Whatever you focus on rolls. Problems work the same way. The more you focus on the problem, the worse it gets. We need to focus on God instead of the problems that come with diversity.”
Each of the honorees expressed their gratitude in being selecting by the MCAAM, but Rev. W.J. Reid did so by saying, “This was supposed to be my funeral,” to the applause of many. From his standpoint, Reid said he did not expect so many of his family and close friends in the community to show up to honor him in such grand fashion until his passing. Honoring the living legends still in the community is precisely what the MCAAM set out to do last year when they instituted the annual Living Legacy Gala. So far, the Museum is two-for-two in doing just that.