40th anniversary of GIANT Awards will salute decades of Black leadership in Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – This year is the 40th anniversary of the esteemed annual GIANT Awards, and Grand Rapids Community College is hosting a special celebration to salute the decades of Black leaders who have contributed to the city of Grand Rapids.

The GIANT Awards, which began in 1983, are presented each year to distinguished Black leaders and organizations who have helped shape the history, culture and quality of life in the Grand Rapids community.

In honor of the ceremony’s 40th anniversary, GRCC is planning a special event to highlight past honorees of the GIANT Awards, as well as present the recipients of a new special anniversary award that will be announced at the banquet, according to a GRCC news release.

“GRCC is tremendously proud to host the GIANT Awards each year, recognizing the people who have played key roles in making West Michigan a stronger, better place to live,” GRCC President Charles Lepper said in a prepared statement.

“The 40th anniversary milestone is a perfect time to pause and reflect on those who have been honored over the decades – to hear again their stories, appreciate their impact, and celebrate their important places in our history.”

The celebration is scheduled for 6 pm Saturday, Feb. 25, at the DeVos Place Exhibit Hall, 303 Monroe Ave. Individual tickets are $100, and eight-seat tables are available for $1,000. Tickets can be purchased here. All proceeds go toward the Milo M. Brown Scholarship and the Junior GIANT Fund.

The keynote speaker for this year’s event is Dr. Jacqueline Walters – better known as “Dr. Jackie” – a philanthropist, health expert, women’s advocate, television personality and award-winning doctor of obstetrics and gynecology. according to the GRCC release.

Walters is a two-time breast cancer survivor who founded the 50 Shades of Pink Foundation which is dedicated to helping breast cancer survivors. She is a frequent speaker on the topics of women’s health, wellness and self-esteem, according to the release. She is also featured on the Bravo hit reality series “Married to Medicine.”

Local media personalities Jamal Spencer, Eddie Rucker and Jennifer Moss are the emcees for the event.

The planning committee for this year’s ceremony is made up of former GIANT honorees, including Vanessa Greene, Larry Johnson, Tempy Mann, Darius Quinn, Faye Richardson-Green, Misti Stanton and Shannon Wilson. GRCC President Emeritus Juan Olivarez and GRCC leaders are also helping facilitate the event.

“The GIANT Awards are special to so many people in our community,” Olivarez said in a statement. “It’s an honor to work with leaders who are devoted to recognizing what we have done to this point, but also making sure this important work continues long into the future.”

Mann, one of the planning committee members, said the annual awards ceremony is an opportunity to look back at past honorees, but also a call to action for future leaders.

“The people who have been honored over the last 40 years are the ones who built our community,” Mann said. “When we tell their stories, we reflect on their legacy. But we also remind ourselves that there is so much more to do. We stand on the shoulders of our Giants, but we need to continue to carry on the work they started.”

The annual GIANT Awards, last presented in October 2022, salute 11 leaders who have made meaningful contributions to Grand Rapids in a variety of areas including justice, education, religion, medicine, humanities, business and labor.

Each award is named after a historical local “giant” whose dedicated service, advocacy, and activism are memorialized through honorees.

The Junior GIANT Award, named in honor of GIANT founders Dr. Patricia Pulliam and Cedric Ward, are presented to students of African American heritage who have demonstrated leadership, community involvement and impact, according to the news release. The Milo M. Brown Scholarship is presented to at least one male and one female African American GRCC students returning as full-time sophomores for the following fall semester.

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