PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The pandemic has forced a significant community tradition on the Peninsula to go virtual this year.

The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC) will again celebrate, individuals, and organizations that promote understanding, respect, diversity, and inclusion, in a virtual program, Thursday, February 25 at 6:30 p.m.

“When we look at what we’re living through in a pandemic. When we look at the presidential election and the ensuing protest that came out of that. When we look at the fight for racial justice in the Black Lives Matter movement that has been so amplified over the last year. This is the very moment where we need leaders like the folks the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities is honoring,” says Jonathan Zur, executive director of VCIC.

Zur says VCIC will honor five individuals and one organization during its 53rd Annual Celebration. Among the honorees is Joycelyn Spight Roache, a vice president at Old Point National Bank.

Spight Roache serves on a number of leadership positions, and boards of directors.

“Advancing work with the Foodbank, the United Way, many others, and within her own company, being a champion for diversity, equity, and Inclusion,” Zur says about Spight Roache.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on minority communities is a major concern that Spight Roache addresses in her outreach.

“We as African Americans, over history, have been used as experimental objects, and some folks are a bit skeptical about the vaccine. But, VCIC and organizations like it are getting the information out that the science can be trusted, that we can take the vaccines with confidence, and that we can work our way out of this.”

Reverend Doctor Kevin Swann says efforts to feed the hungry in his southeast Newport News community have attracted people from outside the neighborhood.

“Our church is in a predominantly African American community. But, we see within our food lines, there are people of all races, people we haven’t seen before, who are now coming.” 

Pastor Swann says, on the one hand, that response says that “everybody’s being impacted. But, on the other hand, it also suggests we have an opportunity to serve people that don’t look like us and maybe don’t come from the same backgrounds we do. And now we have an opportunity to make a difference beyond just the people that we normally serve.”

Six honorees in all will be featured in a virtual program next Thursday.

More information on the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities can be found here.