City honors faith leader, Jabberwocky Studios for diversity efforts | Local

City honors faith leader, Jabberwocky Studios for diversity efforts | Local

Reverend Lester Woods Jr. and Jabberwocky Studios received standing ovations Thursday morning at the 30th Annual Columbia Values ​​Diversity Awards. Woods won the individual award and Jabberwocky Studios won the group award.

The awards were held at the Holiday Inn Executive Center and were given out to recognize individuals who exemplify the life and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. The theme for this year’s event was “Forever Forward.”

Augusta Cooper and Loyd Warden kick off the event with a breakfast music section Thursday at the Holiday Inn Expo Center in Columbia. Guests were treated to a hot breakfast before the awards ceremony.

Aidan Boyd/Missouri

At the start of the event, the room housed more than 100 full tables. The program featured Rochara Knight, who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” an invocation led by various religious leaders, and a video of Columbia students reciting poems they wrote about the importance of diversity and of the unit.

Woods is the founder and senior pastor of Urban Empowerment Ministries, where the mission of the church is to empower people to have an impact in the community. He has more than two decades of experience in advocacy and public service in Colombia and said he hopes to continue his work through his most recent initiative, The Source Summit Global.

Woods said receiving the award was a special moment.

“People don’t have to recognize you, but when they do, it’s very humiliating,” he said.

Lester Woods Jr. receives the 2023 Columbia Values ​​Diversity Award from Columbia Mayor Barbara Buffaloe Thursday at the Holiday Inn Expo Center. Woods was the individual winner; Jabberwocky Studios won the group award.

Aidan Boyd/Missouri

Woods spoke earlier in the program for the summons. During his speech, he stressed the importance of unity and mutual encouragement to move forward.

“Everybody’s somebody,” Woods said during the summons.

Jabberwocky Studios has been serving Columbia since 2015, providing opportunities for young people to be creative and learn new skills. It aims to use art to build equity and inclusion. Studio students can express themselves and meet mentors through hip-hop, mural painting and more.

Janice Dawson-Threat, Executive Director and Founder of Grade A Plus Inc., attended the breakfast. She said she knew the two winners, which made the event special.

“These are long-standing organizations and they deserve a lot,” Dawson-Threat said. “I’ve known Jabberwocky since they started. And Dr. Lester Woods, I’ve known him for at least 20 years.”

Renee Montgomery speaks at Columbia’s Values ​​Diversity Celebration Thursday at the Holiday Inn Expo Center. Montgomery opted out of the 2020 WNBA season to raise awareness about human rights.

Aidan Boyd/Missouri

The breakfast continued with a keynote from Renee Montgomery, two-time WNBA champion and current sports analyst. She now focuses on social justice reform.

Montgomery’s speech focused on her career and how she used the “always forward” mentality to push her through obstacles and setbacks. She ended her speech with a call for those who are listening to keep moving forward, even when the time is not easy or convenient.

Faye King performs a drag show Thursday at the Holiday Inn Expo Center. King works for Nclusion Plus, a drag organization that hosts events across the state.

Aidan Boyd/Missouri

The breakfast ended with a drag show from Nclusion Plus, an organization aimed at empowering LGBTQ+ communities.

Kaycee, one of the drag performers, said being asked to perform was a huge honor and the event served as an important reminder to fight for diversity and inclusivity in all aspects of life.

“Being able to come here and play and have such a welcoming crowd is something that makes me proud to be in Colombia,” Kaycee said.

From left, drag queens Artemis Grey, Kaycee and Faye King perform Thursday at the Holiday Inn Expo Center in Columbia. KayCee of Nclusion Plus has already won Miss Gay City of Columbia America 2023.

Aidan Boyd/Missouri

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