Office of Minority Affairs celebrates community leaders at annual gala

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs on Thursday honored four individuals for their contributions to their communities during the office’s second Trailblazer Awards Gala.

The event Thursday at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia was part of the office’s efforts to recognize individuals who — as office executive director Jill Upson said — “lead a life of excellence.”

“They are people that are doing major things in community service or if they just have reached high achievement in their personal career field,” she said. “We just want to recognize those people and not wait until they are elderly to tell their stories.”

Thaddaus Breckenridge was among the four honorees; he received recognition for creating a business incubator in the Beckley area that offered computers and networking opportunities. Upson also pointed out Breckenridge teaches children debating skills.

“You have to be able to do it civilly,” said Upson, who served in the House of Delegates from January 2015 to last year.

Jill Upson

Breckenridge received the groundbreaker award for his efforts, and was recognized on stage with the three other recipients:

— Mavery Davis, who received the pioneer award for her service in underserved communities.
— Keisha Saunders, who received the trendsetter award, which recognizes someone who has spent at least five years working to improve marginalized communities.
— Jotwyla Moore, who received the highest honor of the trailblazer award for her commitment to public service.

Upson described the awards as the culmination of Black History Month and a showcase of African Americans in West Virginia.

“Historically, the people who write the history books wouldn’t have necessarily been inclined to tell that side of the story,” she said about African Americans. “We want to make sure we are telling the story of black history because it is very important in West Virginia.”

Comedian Dave Temple and band Somethin’ Special performed at the ceremony.

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