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MTSU names honorees, speaker for Feb. 8 Unity Lunc...

MTSU names honorees, speaker for Feb. 8 Unity Luncheon

Middle Tennessee State University’s Black History Month Committee has selected the honorees for the 27th annual Unity Luncheon set for Wednesday, Feb. 8, on the Blue Raider campus.

Coordinated through and hosted by the Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs, the Unity Luncheon is an MTSU tradition that has been around since 1996 where the university honors “unsung heroes” within the community during Black History Month.

Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs logo

Honorees are age 50 or older who have resided in the Middle Tennessee area for 20 years or more and who have made outstanding contributions to their community. 

This year’s honorees and their categories of recognition are retired MTSU professor Marva Lucas, Education; Joe and Sybil Rich, Community Service; Michael McDonald, Advocate of Civility; Stacy Windrow, Excellence in Sports; and Vanessa Alderson, Contribution to Black Arts.

Danielle Rochelle, director, Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs
Danielle Rochelle

“We are so excited to honor another stellar group of citizens from our community who have given of themselves to touch the lives of their neighbors throughout the region and state,” said Danielle Rochelle, director of MTSU’s Office of Intercultural and Diversity Affairs.

Honorees will receive their awards at the catered luncheon, which will be held 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Feb. 8 in MTSU’s Student Union, 1768 MTSU Blvd., in the second-floor ballroom.

Keynote speaker for the event is Memphis attorney and councilman JB Smiley Jr., founding member of Smiley and Associates PLLC. 

JB Smiley Jr., Memphis attorney, councilman
JB Smiley Jr.

Smiley is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. While in law school, he served as a member of the Law Review and Moot Court Board and as vice president of the Black Law Students Association. Smiley successfully passed the Arkansas and Tennessee Bar exams while writing his first book, “Born with It: Unleashing Your Greatness.”

He started his law firm in 2017 and was named to the Memphis Flyer’s “Top 20 Under 30” class the following year, when he was also appointed policy adviser to the Shelby County Clerk. He served in that role until his election to the Memphis City Council in October 2019.

As a council member, Smiley is chair of the Public Works, Transportation and General Services Committee and the council liaison for the Urban Art Commission.

Tickets are available online only through Jan. 31 at https://bit.ly/mtunity2023. They will not be available at the door.

Prices are $20 for students and $35 for nonstudents. A table of eight seats is available for $280. 

For more information about the luncheon, call 615-898-5812 or email Danielle.Rochelle@mtsu.edu. For more information about 2023 Black History Month activities, visit https://mtsu.edu/aahm.

— Jimmy Hart (Jimmy.Hart@mtsu.edu)

In this February 2020 file photo, a portion of the crowd attending the 24th annual MTSU Unity Luncheon in the Student Union Ballroom Thursday waits for the event to begin. MTSU and the community recognized six unsung heroes at the event. The 2023 event will be held Wednesday, Feb. 8, when six more community members will be honored. (MTSU file photo by James Cessna)
In this February 2020 file photo, a portion of the crowd attending the 24th annual MTSU Unity Luncheon in the Student Union Ballroom Thursday waits for the event to begin. MTSU and the community recognized six unsung heroes at the event. The 2023 event will be held Wednesday, Feb. 8, when six more community members will be honored. (MTSU file photo by James Cessna)

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