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In 2018, the Commissioners of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission created a new honor for Ohioans who embody leadership, achievement, and citizenship, demonstrating these characteristics through work to advance civil rights, equality, and diversity in Ohio. Award recipients must demonstrate efforts that are above and beyond the routine efforts to advance civil rights through contributions that benefit the community and include more than one organization or community group, fostering cooperation and collaboration between different entities to reach a single goal. The inaugural recipients of the Community Spirit Award are Larry and Donna James.
Larry James has been at the heart of the Columbus business, legal, civic, and political scene for the last thirty years. He is a respected litigator, as well as an advisor to local and national leaders. Mr. James is a life member of the Sixth Circuit Judicial Conference, and he has served as General Counsel of the National Fraternal Order of Police since 2001. He is also co-founder of the African American Leadership Academy, a member of the Board of Trustees of Kenyon College, the founding and current president of the Lincoln Theatre, and has served sixteen years as the president of the King Arts Complex.
As the managing director of Lardon & Associates and member of many boards of directors, Donna James is a trusted resource and advisor to leaders in the public and private sector. She has founded and lead several nonprofit and community organizations, including the Center for Healthy Families and the African American Leadership Academy. Among many other awards and leadership positions, she was appointed by President Obama as chair of the National Women’s Business Council and named by Black Enterprise Magazine as one of the top 75 in Corporate America.
Together, Mr. and Mrs. James have helped create, shape, and grow the I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100 project to unify the greater Columbus community through the history, heritage and global influence of the Harlem Renaissance.
With a mission to create a catalyst to unite, collaborate, and celebrate the Columbus black arts community through education, exposure, and expression, the I, Too, Sing America project is a year-long, citywide initiative to spread the riches of the Harlem Renaissance of 1918 New York City to modern day Columbus. Through this project, Columbus hosts a thrilling and accessible opportunity to appreciate the past and understand what the Harlem Renaissance can teach us about our nation today. Columbus arts organizations in cooperation with author and scholar Wil Haygood and with the support of Larry and Donna James and more than a dozen other local businesses and organizations, have committed to this opportunity to unite, collaborate and make a statement that will be heard far and wide. “Just as the Harlem Renaissance was ignited in a crucible stirred by outsiders, cabaret performers, self-taught students of jazz, as well as academics, scholars and classically trained artists, I, Too, Sing America will draw from and resurrect our city’s diverse community of creators, makers, artists, educators and organizations.”
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission is an equal opportunity employer; we celebrate and embrace diversity and are committed to maintaining an inclusive community.