Alumnus Sam O’Bryant, III ’02 to be honored during the Memphis Grizzlies’ HBCU Empowerment Awards

For the fifth consecutive year, the Memphis Grizzlies will recognize Black community leaders for their service in honor of Black History Month. This year, one of those honorees is an Alcorn State University alumnus.

Sam O’Bryant, III ’02, the executive director of Literacy Mid-South, will be recognized Tuesday, Feb. 7, during the franchise’s 5th annual HBCU Empowerment Awards, presented by Pinnacle Financial Partners. The announcement will be made during the team’s game against the Chicago Bulls.

The HBCU Empowerment Awards honors HBCU alumni that empower the Memphis and Shelby County community in education, health and wellness, service, and youth development. In the past five years, the Grizzlies have honored 28 graduates from 14 HBCUs, with each receiving a $5,000 gift in their name to their alma mater. O’Bryant will donate to Alcorn’s Office of Career Services to aid their efforts to provide career and internship opportunities for Alcorn students.

Community outreach is a priority for the Memphis Grizzlies, so being highlighted by a franchise striving to improve its community is an honor for O’Bryant.

“In Memphis, the Grizzlies are involved in many community efforts with schools, after-school programs, and mentoring programs,” said O’Bryant. “They have a significant footprint in the city, and everyone understands how much of a difference they make. Also, the excitement around the playmaking of Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Jaren Jackson, Jr. has everyone super excited about a deep playoff run. So, to have my work be recognized by an NBA team that does so much for its community is an honor.”

Memphis has an important place in Black history. O’Bryant acknowledged the city’s history and its effort to continue the legacy by producing and celebrating Black excellence.

“Memphis is a city that sits at the intersection of so much history related to Black History. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is arguably one of the most recognized civil rights figures. His final fight for equality was in Memphis. Also, LeMoyne-Owen College, founded in the 1870s, is in Memphis and is responsible for graduating several teachers, doctors, politicians, and leaders that have served Memphis over the years.”

With his leadership and love for uplifting the next generation of leaders, O’Bryant makes a difference with his role at Literacy Mid-South. The company is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide literacy resources for learners of all ages and backgrounds.

O’Bryant credits his parents, also HBCU alumni (Mississippi Valley State), for instilling in him the importance of community service.

“Making an impact in the community was ingrained in me by my parents. I saw their community service and servant leadership from a young age. In addition to being teachers, their volunteerism in the local business community provided a blueprint. From that blueprint, I learned how to connect with community partners and leverage community strengths to solve problems, and it prepared me for public engagement opportunities.”

Alcorn also played a role in equipping O’Bryant to be a positive leader for the younger generation.

“It was solidified during my time at Alcorn. I’ve worked with youth and community-based programs for much of my career. I owe a lot of my inspiration to Ms. Brenda Buck, who coordinated the AG-Hope program I participated in during the summer of 1997. Much of what I apply to youth and community programs comes from my experience in AG-Hope.”

The Grizzlies are a part of that legacy, and O’Bryant appreciates his city’s NBA team for what they do in the community.

“Having an organization like the Grizzlies honor HBCU alums during Black History Month captures the importance of how there are several members of our community that are doing great work. This work is responsible for educating, serving, and meeting the needs of young people who will grow into the adults that will lead and serve us in the future.”