LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Maxie Hayles (right) receives his portrait from artist Colin Gabbidon
DURING AN evening in Birmingham to celebrate two of the world’s most iconic black figures it was fitting for the city to honour one of its own black heroes with a surprise presentation.
Veteran civil rights campaigner Maxie Hayles was billed as the keynote speaker at a gala evening to honour the life of Dr Martin Luther King and to celebrate President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
But what the founder of Birmingham’s Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit (BRAMU) didn’t know was that he was about to be presented with a ‘lifetime achievement award’ for services to his community.
Hayles was presented with a portrait of himself, painted by Birmingham artist Colin Gabbidon in a surprise ceremony organised by Audrey Hayles-Parkes, founder of the community group Inspiring a Generation.
Hayles, who has received honours in the past from former Prime Minister Tony Blair and American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, said an award from his own community was the most precious of them all.
Professor Mel Chevannes, former dean of the University of Wolverhampton’s School of Health, and a lifelong friend, presented the award.
The evening was organised to honour Martin Luther King, President Barack Obama and Rosa Parkes.
The event was under the theme: ‘Rosa sat, so Martin could walk; Martin walked so Barack could run’.
In his speech Hayles outlined the great role in history played by these figures, concluding with a quote from Martin Luther King: “If you can’t fly, then run; If you can’t run, then walk; If you can’t walk, then crawl but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward. Forward ever, backward never”.
Hayles-Parkes said: “We managed to keep the whole thing a secret from Maxie, but everyone was so keen to contribute to commissioning the painting to thank our own hero.
“Maxie has done so much to help people in distress over many decades in his work with BRAMU, so we wanted to mark this great achievement.”