Friday, Jan. 17, I had the pleasure of honoring and celebrating people who make a difference in Indiana. Indiana Minority Business Magazine, our sister publication, held its 15th annual Champions of Diversity Awards Dinner.
It’s a lot of work for our small staff, but we come together and make it happen!
If you’ve never been to a Champions event, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Not only is it an opportunity to meet some of the best and brightest in the state, dress up and eat a good meal, but you have the opportunity to be in the presence of greatness. I’m not being hyperbolic, either. The achievement and work the honorees do is awe-inspiring. You probably know Dr. Eugene White is a former principal, superintendent and president of Martin University, but when you hear where he came from, how passionate he still is about education and how hard he worked to accomplish his goals, it makes you ready to go out into the world and make a difference!
Listening to the synopsis of each recipient’s life, you realize each one loves their career and loves helping others. They seem to look at their work as service to others. If your career isn’t fulfilling you, it should be is the message.
The humbleness of each recipient makes the event so special. It’s not about their accomplishments, accolades or awards. It’s just who they are and what they do in their professional and personal lives.
I recently spoke to a caller who was so happy I took an interest in her story that she started to cry, which almost made me cry. I told her I was simply doing my job, nothing special. She didn’t see it that way. I imagine many of the Champions recipients feel the same. They’re just doing what they’re supposed to do.
Oftentimes, we don’t see helping our fellow man as a major accomplishment, but what you consider to be a small gesture, or just part of the job, could be life changing for someone. It could help them go from a bad day to a good day.
My favorite moment of Champions 2020 was witnessing the standing ovation Winnie Bulaya, the Martin Luther King Jr. Award recipient, received. Talk about the epitome of a humble servant. Bulaya, a refugee from the Congo, came to Indianapolis with her three children in 2010. She knew no one and had to learn English. Almost immediately she started helping people. Eventually, she created a more formal way to help newly arrived refugees with her welcome basket — a basket full of household items to help families get started. She fittingly named her ministry, Welcome Basket Inc. Bulaya, is a janitor at IUPUI. She saw a need in the community and filled it. She doesn’t broadcast it or try to convince everyone how special or deserving of the award she is. She is truly grassroots.
There are some people who say they’re humble, but it’s all talk. Their actions loudly exclaim every action is all about them and they want the world to see everything they’ve done. They say, “Oh, I’m not important,” while at the same time saying, “I’m so very important. You should be so honored.” That’s not Winnie Bulaya. Seeing her cry during her recognition and the near-capacity crowd stand for her is a moment I’ll carry with me as a reminder of what love for your fellow man really means.
I want to honor more people like Bulaya. I believe in giving people their roses while they can still smell them. It’s important for us to show appreciation to those who work tirelessly to make life better for others. No, they’re not looking for it, but we should want to show love to those who give it so effortlessly.
The 2020 Champions of Diversity are a diverse group. Though they work in different fields, they uphold the tenets of diversity and inclusion through hiring practices, community outreach or policies. I can’t wait to see next year’s honorees.
By the way, if you know someone who is a Champion of Diversity, be on the lookout for nomination forms this summer. Fill it out and send it in!