The African American Chamber of Commerce of Central Pennsylvania has announced the recipient for their Black History Hero Award.

The group has selected Kerry L. Kirkland, deputy secretary for Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities at the Pennsylvania Department of General Services, to receive the award this year. The award ceremony will be held at Temple University Harrisburg campus at 1 p.m. on Feb. 25. The event will be invitation only due to COVID-19.

In a press release from the African American Chamber of Commerce of Central Pennsylvania, the group explained Kirkland’s award was for his work “assisting Small and Small Diverse Businesses, as well as the general public, during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In particular, it was Kirkland’s creation of the COVID-19 Small Diverse Business and Community Taskforce that drew kudos from the AACCCP. Among other initiatives, the task force helped to organize the sterilization of the Harrisburg capitol during the coronavirus pandemic. This has helped to keep the public safe from transmission as well as create or preserve 54 jobs at 16 small businesses, particularly those owned by minority business owners.

“We honor Deputy Secretary Kirkland with this award and are excited for the future of his initiatives and impact on small businesses as his vision spreads throughout the regions and country,” said the press release. “As the Government Liaison and leader of this task force Deputy Secretary Kirkland has been around his exemplary ability to effectively direct federal emergency funds to small and small diverse businesses by removing roadblocks that exist between federal, state and local agencies.”

“I’m very humbled and I’m very appreciative to be recognized by the African American Chamber,” Kirkland said. “I’m thankful, really, for all the support and assistance that they provide to African American business community and the small diverse business community around the region. These those guys are continuously advocating for more fair policies and programs to increase participation in those kind of companies, within the public arena as well as the private sector.”

Kirkland, a graduate of Lincoln University with a master’s degree in Human Services and an Air Force veteran, has also earned the W.E.B. Dubois Award for Excellence, the Parren J. Mitchell Award for Outstanding Minority Business Development Service, the Arthur A. Fletcher Vanguard Award, and the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus Civil Rights Award.