Barber, Langley Receive 2018 Humanitarian Service Award

Annual award recognizes individuals with a commitment to service and simplicity

DeWarren K. Langley and Rev. William Barber
Humanitarian Service Award winners DeWarren K. Langley and Rev. William Barber.

Duke University Chapel has awarded its Humanitarian Service Award to DeWarren K. Langley, executive director of the nonprofit Charles Hamilton Houston Foundation, and the Rev. William J. Barber II, a bishop, pastor, author, and community organizer.

The award, given annually to recognize individuals with a commitment to service and simplicity, was presented to the two men at a reception held in Duke Divinity School on Nov. 18. (The Rev. Della Owens McKinnon accepted the award on behalf of Barber.)

It was created in honor of two Duke professors: Dr. George R. Parkerson Jr. and the late professor C. Eric Lincoln. Award recipients each receive a grant of $1,500 to further their community service efforts.

As a teenager growing up in Durham, Langley participated in the Duke-Durham Partners for Youth program (a collaboration between the university and the West End community) from 1999 until the completion of his first year in college in 2004.

He later served on the board of the program, including a term as chairman from 2007 to 2012. With a business degree from Hampton University and law and public administration degrees from North Carolina Central University, Langley has continued to serve in many civic organizations, including the West End Community Foundation, Antioch Builds Community, and the Durham Community Martin Luther King, Jr. Steering Committee.

As executive director of the nonprofit Charles Hamilton Houston Foundation, he works to connect young men of color with professional opportunities and advocate for academic policies and practices that support them.

Langley was nominated for the award by Brandon Hudson, a Duke alumnus, former Duke Chapel PathWays Fellow, and director of the Durham nonprofit Urban Hope.

“I admire DeWarren's passion for seeing all members of our city flourish with an emphasis on youth and young adults,” Hudson wrote. “By acknowledging DeWarren now, we not only highlight a model for others but also make an investment in the lives of those he impacts.”

A graduate of Duke Divinity School, Barber has become a recognized voice in American public discourse. This year, he was named a MacArthur Fellow for his work building a grassroots movement grounded in the moral tenets of faith-based communities and the United States Constitution to confront racial and economic inequalities.

The pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro and president of the nonprofit Repairers of the Breach, Barber has returned to Duke a number of times to speak, including at a Bridge Panel public conversation in Duke Chapel this past spring.   

Barber’s nomination was supported by the Rev. Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove, a Duke Divinity School graduate and director of the School for Conversion in Durham.

“He is, without question, one of the best preachers in America today,” Wilson-Hargrove wrote. “But I recommend his work to your committee because the vision he proclaims and performs each day is not only for people of exceptional ability. It is, rather, the good news that our communities can be reconstructed when we listen to the stories of rejected stones and trust that God is using them to show us a new way forward.”

The Rev. Bruce Puckett, assistant dean of Duke Chapel, presented the awards.

“It is one thing to talk about the value of serving others, but it is another thing to live as a servant-leader,” Puckett said. “Both Dr. Barber and DeWarren give us an example, a picture, of what it looks like to serve with integrity and courage. My hope is that these awards will not only directly support their work but also inspire others to lives of simplicity and service.”