“What are you doing with your gift?”
A long-time University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work board member and supporter Deloris Jordan accepted the Coretta Scott King Soul of the Nation Award at The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change’s 2024 Beloved Community Awards gala in Atlanta, Ga., on Saturday, Jan. 13. She was among several luminaries, including civil rights activist Ben Crump and retired actor and activist Michael J. Fox, honored by The King Center. The award was bestowed during a glittering celebration in the largest ballroom in the city.
A UNC School of Social Work board member and the mother of two Carolina graduates, Jordan was resplendent in a floor-length, embroidered red gown and matching cape, taking the stage after a warm introduction by writer and global health activist Chelsea Clinton.
Jordan, a North Carolina native and the mother of basketball great Michael Jordan, is known to recent viewers of ESPN’s 2020 The Last Dance docuseries for her emphasis on education and the 2023 Ben Affleck-directed film “Air” as a tough negotiator who inspired her son and his siblings to success. In 1998, she authored the book “Family First: Winning the Parenting Game.” Jordan is an active philanthropist, public speaker, and community leader, first as cofounder with her late husband of the Michael Jordan Foundation and later, as founder and president of the James R. Jordan Foundation and its international branch, through which she helped build the Kenya Women and Children’s Wellness Centre in Nairobi.
“Truly, I can think of no one more deserving of the Beloved Community Coretta Scott King Soul of the Nation Award than Mrs. Deloris Jordan,” said School of Social Work Dean Ramona Denby-Brinson. “Through her extensive community engagement and service, Mrs. Jordan has taken up Coretta Scott King’s call to action wherein she demonstrates how we should give, love and serve a cause greater than ourselves.”
Jordan’s stirring acceptance speech was delivered in a soft but commanding voice, riveting the audience as she recalled a past opportunity to meet Mrs. Coretta Scott King and talk with her about the importance of family.
“Each and every one of us have a purpose,” Jordan said, “and it is within you.”
“What are you doing with your gift? … I challenge each one of us: How do we go back to our communities and make a difference?” she asked gala participants, broadcast viewers, and the multiple generations of family members she brought on stage with her.
Jordan noted the mentors who lifted and inspired her as a community advocate, including the late civil rights and women’s rights activist Dorothy Height, Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, and the award’s namesake, the late Coretta Scott King.
Jordan’s son Michael (’86 BA, Geography), a former UNC and Chicago Bulls basketball star who led the Bulls to six NBA championships, sold his majority stake in the Charlotte Hornets professional basketball team in 2023. Widely identified as the greatest to ever play the game, Michael honored his mother by attending Saturday’s gala. Daughter Roslyn (’87 BS, Industrial Relations) and other family members spanning four generations celebrated with the award-winner at the entertainment-filled gala.
The Jordan Institute for Families (JIF) at the School works to cultivate safe, stable, nurturing families over the course of life. It was founded in 1996 by Michael Jordan and his family. Roslyn Jordan served as a policy advisory board member to JIF in its formative years.
Denby-Brinson added, “For years, Mrs. Jordan has championed social work causes and through the Jordan Institute, continues to make a positive difference in the lives of hundreds of children and families. Mrs. Deloris Jordan’s work is truly worthy of emulation.”
“Mrs. Jordan’s deep commitment to supporting families and those who serve them is inspiring,” added JIF Director Sarah Verbiest. “She expects excellence while offering encouragement.”
During her acceptance speech, Jordan called out both UNC-Chapel Hill and the Jordan Institute for Families, to whoops from a table of supporters from the UNC School of Social Work.
In closing, Jordan called on all to love one another, “Not by the color of our skin or by our culture but by our shared humanity.”
© 2024 Photo of Dr. Bernice King (left) and Mrs. Deloris Jordan (right) at the 2024 Beloved Community Awards by Kandace Farrar, the School’s associate dean for advancement.