Charles Mitchell Jr., right, an officer with Bluffton Police Department, was named First Responder of the Year at the Black Excellence Ball Jan. 14. Pictured with him are his parents, Charles Mitchell Sr. and Lillian Mitchell. COURTESY CHARLES MITCHELL JR.

Celebrations at the 2022 Black Excellence Ball held Jan. 14, hosted by WSAV-TV news anchor Tina Tyus-Shaw and KJ Kearney, founder and creator of Black Food Fridays, honored not only three notable community members, but recognized the achievements of the area’s black-owned businesses.

Bluffton native Laura Bush was presented in absentia with the Lifetime Achievement Award; Philadelphia transplant Michael Lewis was recognized with the Social Justice Award; and Charleston native Chef BJ Dennis was awarded the Gullah-Geechee Gatekeeper Award for his efforts in elevating and preserving the Lowcountry’s rich culture.

The evening’s event was organized by the Bluffton Martin Luther King Observance Committee, which had disseminated a survey within the community to select top Black-owned businesses and individuals.

Earning two of the awards was the late Chef Colin Eady Sr., who passed in October 2021. Former executive chef of the Gullah Jazz Café and other area locations, Eady was named Best Caterer and Entrepreneur of the Year with his own line of spices.

Other awardees are:

Best Barbershop: Fresh Cuts Unlimited

Best Hair Salon: TJ’s Styling

Realtor of the Year: Jessica Washington

Best Day Care: Helping Hands with Love

Best Law Firm: Law Office of Clifford Bush III

Best Funeral Home: Compassion Funeral Home

Educator of the Year: Latrice Campbell

First Responder of the Year: Charles Mitchell

Photographer of the Year: Norman Jenkins

Coach of the Year: D’won Fields Sr.

Best Event Designer: Simplicity Creations

Best Restaurant: Shabazz Seafood Restaurant

Best Dinners/Secret Eatery: Mamma Joy’s Kitchen

Greek Organization Undergrad Chapter of the Year Award: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Delta Nu

Greek Organization Grad Chapter of the Year Award: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Beaufort Alumnae Chapter

Visual Artist of the Year: Deidre Young

Entertainer of the Year: Gwen Yvette

Best Live Entertainment: Gwen Yvette & TC Soul

Small Business of the Year: New Level Nutrition

Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.