Gammage scholarships awarded at NAACP luncheon

The Jonny Gammage Memorial Scholarship was Awarded at the Pittsburgh NAACP’s Scholarship Luncheon July 27 at University of Pittsburgh Student Union.

The Black and White Reunion was established in 1996 in response to the death of Black motorist Jonny Gammage while in police custody and the not guilty verdicts at the trials of the police officers involved in his death.

AWARDEE—Tim Stevens, left, and Bob Maddock look on as Michele Coker, who received the Jonny Gammage/Black & White Reunion award, speaks about her dreams and aspirations.

One of the organization’s most important projects is the Jonny Gammage Memorial Scholarship to support local students studying the law, an NAACP Press Release, stated. Applicants have to write an essay about civil rights and police accountability. This year’s winner, Michelle J. Coker, will begin her legal training at the University of Wisconsin Law School-Madison in the fall. She was an intern and a citizen monitor for the Regional Equity Monitoring Project.

“When I thought about what to write to address legal changes needed to minimize police brutality, I was inspired by Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.” I rewrote it as “Urban Streets Bear Strange Fruit” with the the spirit of our connectional heritage and struggle in America and my desire for justice that every human on the globe deserves,” Coker said.

“Writing this essay helped me to remember why I first wanted to be a lawyer. Lawyers should use their their role to be the voice of integrity and dignity in our society and the power to influence American culture to strive for equality for all from corporate law to public interest.”

The Black and White Reunion has presented the scholarship, since its inception, in collaboration with the NAACP Pittsburgh Branch. This year, BWR announced a partnership with NEED which added $1,000; the scholarship now totals $3,000.

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