Courtesy of The Times of Northwest Indiana • Jan 17 06:00 am
Written by Steve Euvino
GARY — Memories of those pioneers in the decades-long fight for civil rights justice will be rekindled Saturday at the Gary Frontiers Service Club’s 40th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast.
Nearly 600 people are expected at the Saturday morning program at the Genesis Convention Center, where the Gary Frontiers will honor five pioneers in the fight for civil rights.
The Drum Major and Marcher awards to be presented recognize people who have dedicated their lives to improving the human conditions of others and, as Gary Frontiers president Oliver Gilliam stresses, “people who have dedicated a significant portion of their lives in the struggle for helping others.”
While the program honors specific people, Gilliam said, it also recalls those unnamed individuals who stood up to injustice and, in some cases, had to be sneaked in and out of such places as Jackson, Mississippi, to fight for justice and against the Ku Klux Klan.
This year’s honorees are Dr. Janet Seabrook as Drum Major and Monroe Smith, Nellie F. Moore, Wendell Clayton Harris Sr. and Sharon Chambers as Marchers.
A 2018 Marcher honoree, Seabrook worked with the Gary mayor’s office to establish a health center in the city. That led to the founding of Community HealthNet, a nonprofit, community-based primary health care organization that grew from one small trailer in Gary to five locations in Northwest Indiana.
“Every Marcher qualifies to be a Drum Major,” Gilliam said, noting the group’s first Drum Major was the late U.S. Rep. Katie Hall, who was influential in making the King Holiday a federal observance.
One of 12 children, Smith served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Later serving as a Gary firefighter, he became the first black man to become a fire chief in California and the first to serve in that capacity west of the Mississippi River. In 1983, Compton, California, where Smith had served as fire chief, named a fire station in his honor.
Moore, an educator, is a former president of the Gary Community School Board.
A community activist and photographer, Harris served with the Fair Share organization, a group dedicated to challenging injustices by empowering people in local communities.
Chambers, the owner of a downtown Gary insurance agency, serves on a number of boards, including Gary Chamber of Commerce, American Heart Association, Urban League and Methodist Hospital Foundation.
Recalling the message of Dr. King, Gilliam said this year’s Gary Frontiers honorees are special because “they served for the same struggles Dr. King died for.”
Breakfast tickets are still available from Becket & Bean Insurance at 1342 Broadway in Gary, (885-8546).