A night of cultural performances and honors for equity advocates, students and educators capped off a week of Lawrence school district tributes to Martin Luther King Jr. on Thursday.
Those working toward realizing the visions of the slain civil rights leader were recognized by the district at its One Dream Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at the Lied Center.
Free State High School junior Wendo Kimori emceed the event. A second-generation U.S. citizen whose parents emigrated from Kenya, Wendo serves on the superintendent’s student advisory council and the equity council, in addition to a long list of extracurriculars.
“Hosting an event about Dr. King is so important to me, because I wouldn’t be where I am today without his sacrifices, diligence and wisdom, among other contributions.”
Steve Cadue, winner of the MLK Dreamer’s Award and community advocate for Indigenous people, was described by presenter Andrew Taylor as “persistent, bold, unwavering, unapologetic, and a solid listener and analyzer.”
Cadue, a member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas, has engaged with school district and community leaders to embed Indigenous curriculum in the district. He acknowledged the challenges facing education today.
“Quality education is not easy, and let’s rededicate each and everyone to the teaching of Dr. King to achieve our dreams. Miigwetch! Thank you.”
Superintendent Anthony Lewis opened the ceremony by honoring the original keepers of the land on which the Lied Center stands with acknowledgement of the Kaw, Osage, Kickapoo and Sioux people as past, present and future caretakers of the land. He also gave support for the four federally recognized tribes in Kansas: The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska, and the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. A moment of silence was held in their honor.
Student recipient of the 2022 MLK Heart of Service Award was Landry Wilson, of Deerfield Elementary. Presenter Treven Gill described Landry as a generous volunteer in the community.
“I love volunteering because it’s nice knowing that I’m helping people,” Landry told the audience.
Danica Moore, the first equity facilitator in the school district, was awarded with the 2022 Staff MLK Champion of Equity award. Presenter Kristen Ryan called Moore “a trailblazer.”
“She seeks opportunities to grow and models the change she hopes to see. She continually shows up and stands in front, oftentimes taking the heat when people are triggered by the content. She works tirelessly behind the scenes to secure and ensure opportunities for staff of color are available, supported and promoted through working with the staff of color support group,” Ryan said of Moore.
Bee Hoffman accepted the award on behalf of Charles. “This One Dream celebration is one of the few creations within this community that honors Black labor and Black creation. This says a lot about the community we inhabit. My work is about being honest. Even when it hurts, even when it shames, even when it provokes tears, and even when it’s seen as unnecessary and threatening. We must tell the truth in our own journeys, we must be able to reckon with the lives we live and how it’s not aligned with honoring humanity. We must stop performing good and actually be good. This community we live in has many needs and performing care will never move us closer to liberation for us all. It’s time to ante up.”
Prairie Park Elementary’s First Grade Courageous Conversations Compass Crew sang and danced while conveying the courageous thoughts in MLK’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” The Asian Classical Music Initiative — a group dedicated to the promotion and presentation of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander classical music — shared their talents with the crowd.
Throughout the event, students shared cultural moments – biographical information and quotes about influential BIPOC. Featured were the late author-activist bell hooks, youth activist Sophie Cruz, and the late West African author and leader Malidoma Patrice Somé.
This year’s MLK award winners and finalists are:
MLK Heart of Service Award – Presented to an individual or group making a significant impact on the community through volunteering or going above and beyond.
Student winner – Landry Wilson (Deerfield Elementary).
Staff winner – Katie Hutchison (Lawrence High School English as a Second Language teacher). Finalist – Susan Miller (Southwest Middle School paraeducator).
MLK Character Award — Presented to Pre-K, elementary, middle, and high school students who demonstrate character through integrity and the balance of respect and responsibility.
Elementary student winner – Echo Deer (Broken Arrow). Finalists – Geovanni Juarez-Hernandez (Broken Arrow) and Eli Kaul (Hillcrest).
High school student winner – Litzy Torres-Zepeda (LHS). Finalist – Bianca Nieto (LHS).
MLK Dreamer’s Award – Presented to a student and an adult who have courage to envision change and encourage change among friends, family, and community.
Student winners – Shreya Bhakta and Anotida Chikanda (Free State High School).
Adult winner – Steve Cadue (community advocate for Indigenous people and member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas). Finalists – Eric Cheray (Pinckney Elementary guidance counselor) and Amy Laytimi (LHS special education teacher).
MLK Champion of Equity Award – Presented to individuals compassionate and courageous efforts to create a diverse community and to bring about systemic change aimed at promoting justice and equity.
Staff winner – Danica Moore (district equity facilitator). Finalists – Annette Kenoly (district curriculum specialist) and Bee Hoffman (LHS English teacher).
Community winner – Cody Charles (advocate and founder/executive director of Haus of McCoy).