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Massey’s Facts & Faith Fridays honored at annual MLK event

The monthly program was recognized for its commitment to providing accessible health information and building more trust in rural and urban communities.

Three people stand together in a church receiving an award. Robert A. Winn, M.D., and Rudene Mercer Haynes, J.D., accepted an MLK RVA Drum Major Award for Facts & Faith Fridays. (VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center)

By Amy Lacey

An event honoring the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recognized a health-focused community engagement and education program, led by VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center, for its service to the community.

In a keynote address titled “A City Called Heaven,” Yewande Austin shared how an African American spiritual of the same name and others propelled her toward a career in social justice while she was a college student.

“When you hear those melodies, you feel them in your soul,” said Austin, the founder and president of the Global Institute for Diversity and Change. “There’s power in words, my friends, but there is greater power in action. Too many of us are waiting for someone else to create the heaven that we want to see.”

Austin delivered her remarks at the 22nd annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Majors Awards and Celebration (MLK RVA) on Jan. 21 at Fifth Street Baptist Church in Richmond. MLK RVA acknowledges the accomplishments of servant leaders through its Drum Major Awards. This year’s honorees included VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Facts & Faith Fridays. The virtual programming was recognized for its commitment to enhancing lives and providing access to equitable health information while debunking medical myths and mistrust in urban and rural communities.

Facts & Faith Fridays began in the spring of 2020 and initially addressed the disproportionate impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on the Black community.

The discussions have now evolved to include a range of social justice and health topics — including cancer — through one session for invited clergy and lay leaders and one public session each month. The events are led by Facts & Faith Friday co-founders Robert A. Winn, M.D., director and Lipman Chair in Oncology at Massey, Rudene Mercer Haynes, J.D., a Massey Advisory Board member, and Rev. F. Todd Gray of Fifth Street Baptist Church.

Haynes and Winn accepted the Drum Major Award, which is an homage to King’s Feb. 4, 1968 sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta:

“We all have the drum major instinct. We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade... And the great issue of life is to harness the drum major instinct. It is a good instinct if you don't distort it and pervert it. Don't give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be the first in love. I want you to be the first in moral excellence. I want you to be the first in generosity.”

The MLK RVA event was presented jointly by Fifth Street Baptist Church, Boaz & Ruth and Urban Financial Services Coalition, Richmond chapter in partnership with LUX Church.