Chandler pastor earns city MLK Achievement Award - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler pastor earns city MLK Achievement Award

January 16th, 2022 development
Chandler pastor earns city MLK Achievement Award

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

Pastor Victor Hardy was at a comic book convention interviewing “Ghostbusters” star Ernie Hudson and thought he was the one asking the questions. Not so.

When the interview ended, it was Hudson’s turn.

“He looked at me, and he said, ‘What are you doing for the African American people in your neighborhood?’ And I went, ‘ah, dah, dah, dah.’”

Hardy has done enough since then to earn recognition, something he received on Friday as he was given the MLK Lifetime Achievement Award by the city in an event organized by Councilmembers OD Harris and Christine Ellis.

“The only thing I can think of, is I’m only 60 years old,” Hardy said. “Lifetime achievement? I don’t think so,” he said with a laugh. “That’s what went through my mind.”

Hardy, pastor of the Congregational Church of the Valley in Chandler for six years, founded the Chandler Men of Action, which hosts an annual banquet to honor African-American men.

“Pastor Hardy has been in our community for 20-plus years,” Harris said. “He has been a community leader, he’s been an advocate, he’s been a spiritual parent to so many people and he has just been a pillar in the community.”

Another member of Chandler City Council, Mark Stewart, attends Hardy’s church.

“He’s my pastor, first of all, but second of all he’s been a friend,” Stewart said. “He’s been a stalwart of our community for years. His impact as it relates to Martin Luther King’s dream, has been incredible for Chandler.”

Hardy never envisioned this path for himself, however. Though he grew up in a family of pastors and ministers, he wanted to be a singer, possibly headlining a show in Las Vegas.

“God said, ‘This is what you will do,’” Hardy said. “And I ran from God. Truly ran. I didn’t want to have anything to do with what He wanted me to do. All of a sudden, everything else closed down. Couldn’t work anymore. Family needed to eat. All these different things that kept happening in my life, and I wound up in this church.”

The Chandler Men of Action has been around for a decade. Hardy said he got the idea for a banquet because he was going to a lot of other banquets that recognized other groups. He would see only two other African Americans, the same ones, at every banquet.

He said when he first proposed the idea, he ran into people who told him he’d never pull it off. He pushed to get the city involved, and they were able to pull it together in about six months.

“The only way we could get it done, really and truly, was for it to look like a man did it,” Hardy said. “Not all the flowers, and not all the glitz and glamour. This was a man’s banquet. We’re going to eat, and we’re going to give somebody an award, and that’s it.”

The dinner honored former Chandler Mayor Coy Payne, the first African-American mayor in Arizona.

“Somebody told me the only thing you did was to take a hundred men out to dinner. Fantastic, that’s what we wanted to do. Everybody came out, they had a good time. I was prouder of that than anything.”

His moment to enjoy what he accomplished didn’t last long.

“Then the vice mayor got up, and I thought that maybe we’ll just do it once, no. ‘Thank you all for coming to the annual African American banquet …’ and I’m looking at him like, ‘you said annual what? What is your problem?’”

Harris said in keeping with King’s dream, the inaugural class of Chandler’s MLK award recipients includes people of all races who have shown they deserve it based on their character.

Here is the first class of the city’s MLK honorees: Kiana Sears, Monique Hughes, Amya Rodriguez, Laura Capello, Ernest Clark Jr., Jaylen Jones, Michael Bankston, Juanita Encinas, Angel Encinas, Michael Franklin, Shawn Mitchell, Dr. Bill Crawford, Cianna Kirksey, Dr. Adama Sallu, Faith Johnson, Julia Peixoto-Peters, Lisa Grayer, Ashlee Atkins, Keasha Beach, Crystal Blackwell, Shelby Pedersen, Terri Kimble, Brian Fox, Cristian Brantley, Bardo Brantley, Derek Kennard, and Nzinga Lyakaremye.

Hardy said he didn’t set out for this kind of recognition.

“Somebody once told me, ‘the only thing you need to do is to make things better in the corner of the world where you live,” Hardy said. “And that’s what I’m trying to do. Not trying, that’s what we’re doing.”