44th Annual Dinner Celebrates Legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Hundreds of AFSCME members, community leaders, and allies gathered to honor and celebrate the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“No other event compares to this very special evening which showcases what AFSCME and the civil rights movement mean to all workers and our families throughout the world” said President Lawrence Roehrig. The event highlighted the intricate link between the struggles of the labor movement and the civil rights movement as we approach the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s murder.

Jermont Terry of WDIV Local 4 served as Master of Ceremonies for the evening and led the award presentations for Distinguished Union Service, PEOPLE, Community Service, Young Orator, Posthumous Award, and the President’s Special “Never Quit Award”. He was joined by Keynote Speaker and Hall of Fame NFL Tight End Kellen Winslow Sr. who gave an incredible and empowering speech about race relations and the power of working people when joining together in unions.

The Distinguished Union Service Award was granted to Darlene Buffington, a union rep since 2000 for AFSCME Local 1659, executive board member, and mother of 4. Her mother was heavily involved in politics growing up and her father was an AFSCME member and City of Detroit worked for 42 years and she has continued the tradition with her children standing and marching alongside her for the last 18 years.

“I’ve used a lot of trees filing grievances for my co-workers the last 18 years and I’m glad to show them how important the union is,” said Buffington. “While unions fought to get their jobs back, they also sent vouchers for indigent displaced employees and vouchers to cover living expenses. With unions, we will make a better way for the people- as a people.”

The Gloria C. Cobbin PEOPLE Award recipient was Roderick Johnson, a member of AFSCME Local 542 for over 15 years. Roderick has served on both the Region 1 and Local 542 PEOPLE committee and is often at meetings an hour or two ahead of time with pressing information to share with other members to guide PEOPLE decision making and make sure politicians have the needs of working families at the forefront of their minds.

Darrell Evans of AFSCME Local 312 was this year’s recipient of the Community Service Award. He has been a member of Local 312 since 1996 where you can often find him educating, encouraging, and inspiring members to take up AFSCME fights and issues. He has served as Co-Chair of Region 1’s PEOPLE committee and volunteers in his community with a variety of organizations to assist families in need. He is a proud father and member of the Michigan Democratic Party where he has served his district as a precinct delegate since 2002.

The Young Orator Award went to Delante Ross, the oldest child of Felicia Slater, a member of Local 214. Delante has always been a member of the 214 family, volunteering at many events in high school. He recently graduated from Redford Union High School and is currently a student in the Detroit Police Academy. He also enjoys volunteering, reading, and travel.

Nurse, world traveler, lifelong civil rights advocate, and founding member of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Dorothy Jean Mottley dedicated her life to improving the lives of others and was honored with the Posthumous Award. She was the only black student in her class at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School in Ann Arbor until she graduated from Harlem Hospital School of Nursing and returned to Detroit in 1956.

Upon her return, she served in different nursing roles at Lafayette Clinic, Wayne State University Health Center, the newly created Neighborhood Comprehensive Health Services Center, and the Detroit Health Department. She was elected president of the International Nurses Association of AFSCME and remained with the Detroit Health Department until her retirement in 1997.

Dorothy was honored with this award along with JoAnn Wallace, the other Posthumous Award recipient. Joann was an active union officer and member of Local 345 as an office secretary since 1973. She was elected to the Executive Board as Corresponding Secretary in 1979 where she served until retirement. She showed an unparalleled concern and dedication in her work in the union and in the community where she coordinated wheelchair ramp building, painting buildings, food basket preparation, substance abuse meetings, and clothing drives during the winter.

JoAnn was an active member of the AFSCME Women’s Committee, PEOPLE Committee, Democratic Party, MLK Dinner Committee, CBTU, NAACP, Labor Day Parade Committee, AFL-CIO, and Community Service committees.

Council 25 President Lawrence Roehrig also honored Flint Mayor Karen Weaver at the dinner with the President’s Special “Never Quit” Award. Mayor Weaver became the first female Mayor of Flint when she was elected in 2015 and has since overseen the city’s role in the recovery from the ongoing Flint Water Crisis, the most dominating issue during her tenure.

Shortly after taking office, she declared an emergency in the city due to the water crisis. She also pushed for similar declarations by the state and federal governments, which was granted by Governor Rick Snyder on January 5th, 2016 and President Barack Obama on January 16th. She later testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on the crisis and has met with both President Obama and Trump to talk about the water crisis, infrastructure, and public safety.

Congratulations to all AFSCME award winners on embodying the spirit of Dr. King in your commitment to good jobs, strong communities, and a fair and just society for all.