Syracuse University announces 2006 Martin Luther King Jr. Unsung Heroes
Syracuse University announces 2006 Martin Luther King Jr. Unsung HeroesJanuary 10, 2006Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
The Syracuse University Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee has selected the recipients of the 2006 Unsung Heroes Award.
The award winners are Beyond Boundaries; SU employee Lonnie Reeder; Nottingham High School seniors Curtis E. Scrivens Jr., and Kimberly Wolfe; and SU junior Ryedell Davis. The winners are chosen for their work, which advances King’s agenda in a significant way. They will be honored during the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Dinner on Jan. 22 in the Carrier Dome. This year’s celebratory dinner will include an evening program and a keynote address by Charles Ogletree Jr., Harvard Law School’s Jesse Climenko Professor of Law and executive director of the school’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice.
Beyond Boundaries: Building bridges between diverse people in CNY and beyond
Central New York residents who participate in cultural awareness trips arranged by Beyond Boundaries to selected areas in the United States, West Africa and Latin America are not expecting a Club Med experience. Rather, they look forward to an extraordinary opportunity to build relationships that cross cultural, racial, religious and class boundaries both within the Central New York community and beyond.
Founded in 1993, Beyond Boundaries is a Syracuse-based, grassroots organization that enables people from all walks of life to learn about each other, experience other cultures and, in the process, learn more about themselves. Thegroup, which has about 50 active members, is coordinated by Syracuse residents Mardea Warner and Agnes Lane.”Dispelling stereotypes is vital to what we do,” Warner says. “Our traveling groups may include people ranging in age from 10 to 80 years old. It’s a rainbow group of people who would not normally be brought together in a social group, much less travel together.”
Each year, members of Beyond Boundaries travel to one of four locations: Ghana, West Africa; Loiza and Cayey, Puerto Rico; the Gullah Island of St. Helena off the coast of South Carolina; and Native American territories. People who plan to participate in a trip attend monthly meetings to get to know each other’s stories, plan the trip and help with annual fund-raising activities, which include cultural dinners and multi-cultural art auctions. Proceeds enable Beyond Boundaries to offset the costs for members who have limited resources.
“We are not a travel agency,” Lane says. “You don’t just pay your money and go on a trip. It’s about the process of preparing for the trip, learning about who you will be traveling with and about the culture of the people and the history of places to which you are traveling.”
Over the years, Beyond Boundaries has built lasting relationships with people across the United States and abroad. Those relationships are often established or nurtured by Beyond Boundaries members who have family or close friends living in the travel destinations.
In July, Beyond Boundaries will again be traveling to Ghana where the organization has built a relationship with the Ghanaian Centre for Sustainable Development Initiatives (CENSUDI), a grassroots organization in Bolgatanga, Upper East Region. Each year, proceeds from the Beyond Boundaries multi-cultural Silent Art Auction go to a scholarship fund to help CENSUDI’s Education Improvement Programme, which supports girls’ education.
“During the trip, we will be meeting with CENSUDI organizers, scholarship recipients and their families and representatives from other grassrootsorganizations to discuss how we can further help support their programs,” Warner says.
A 1999 trip to Ghana resulted in the establishment of Bluetree Studios, a fair-trade business in Syracuse that purchases baskets made by weavers of the Single Mothers Association of Zuarungu and other Ghanaian groups. Bluetree sells the baskets at the Syracuse Regional Market on Saturday mornings and via the Web site: www.BluetreeStudios.com.
“The goal of our trips is not to spend time with the tourists,” Warner says. “We go to local habitats, eat local foods and meet people we would normally never have an opportunity to come to know.”
Lonnie Reeder: Random acts of kindness are a way of life
Syracuse resident Lonnie Reeder, 74, grew up on a farm in Alabama, the son of a sharecropper. The first pair of shoes and long pants that he wore as a young child were gifts from a “white lady from Detroit,” who traveled to Alabama to help families like Reeder’s. She was Reeder’s guardian angel. He never forgot her random act of kindness and lives his life in service to others.
“My mother taught me that if you turn down somebody who needs help, you might be turning down an angel,” Reeder says. “I learned that a long time ago.”
Reeder is a general maintenance employee in SU’s Housing and Food Services Maintenance Department. He has worked at SU for 32 years. He considers his co-workers, the students living in the residence halls where he works and his neighbors part of his family; their needs become his mission. Reeder rarely talks about the things he does for others, but his acts of kindness have spread quietly among his co-workers who have brought his story to light.
Reeder has a list of more than 40 elderly neighbors he regularly drives to the grocery store at the beginning of every month after their retirement checks arrive. He keeps a crate in his truck that he uses as a step to help his friends get in and out of the truck. If some run a little short on cash while shopping, Reedercovers the bill. Those who run out of food before the end of the month can counton Reeder to show up with a bag of groceries to hold them over. If a neighbor needs a ride to the doctor’s office or help moving to a new home, he is there with his truck. He has put 40,000 miles on his latest truck, which he purchased just two years ago.
When a co-worker became ill and was on an extended leave, Reeder visited the family regularly and ensured they had food and other necessities. A while back, he learned that another co-worker had seldom celebrated a birthday with a party. Reeder threw a party for the co-worker, invited 60 people and provided the food. Last fall, a student’s parents shipped a microwave from California to Syracuse, which arrived broken. Reeder responded to their call to FIXit, but he was unable to repair the microwave. The next day he showed up at the student’s residence hall room with a new microwave. He simply says that he “got a good deal.”
“Lonnie has no doctorates, no degrees; he’s not director of this, nor chairman of that,” says J.D. Tessier, director and zone manager for Housing and Food Services Maintenance. “But his generosity is a way of life for him. He lives that mission everyday. It’s who he is.”
Curtis E. Scrivens Jr.: An advocate for youth and diversity in his school and community
Throughout his youth, Curtis E. Scrivens Jr. has sought out and participated in numerous experiences that have made him a powerful advocate for both diversity and youth and given him both the inspiration and skills to take a stand and fight for what he believes.
A senior at Nottingham High School, Scrivens has served as president of the Syracuse Model Neighborhood Youth Council, governing youth activities in Syracuse, and as a youth representative to the Syracuse Model Neighborhood Board of Directors. “In that position, I was able to advocate for the thoughts and ideas of my fellow youths,” he says. “As a young person myself, that was a unique and unforgettable experience.”
At school, Scrivens has been an integral part of the InterReligious Council’sCommunity Wide Dialogue (CWD) program, facilitating dialogues between Nottingham and Fayetteville-Manlius High School. The CWD experience is intended to help students work toward eliminating stereotypes and ending racism. “In this capacity, Curtis has been a validation of the significance and important presence of diverse people in these discussions,” says Karen Calenzo, Nottingham High School guidance counselor, who nominated Scrivens for the award. “He is a young man with a powerful message.”
Scrivens has used his musical talent to reach out to others by serving as director of Children of Faith, Syracuse’s first city-wide youth gospel choir. He is also the host of the Southwest Community Center’s Youth Gospel Radio Show.
He won’t take all the credit for his drive and his active involvement in the community. His mother, Annette Bryant, is a religious leader in Syracuse. Since Scrivens was a young child, his mother has encouraged him to make a difference by standing up for his beliefs and getting involved.
“Mom has always told me to ‘do it,’ and has always been there to support me in my endeavors,” he says.
In 2005, Scrivens participated in the Civil Rights Connection, a program created by former State Sen. Nancy Larraine Hoffmann to help Central New York young people learn first-hand about the civil rights movement through a trip to Mississippi. It was an experience, Scrivens says, that both inspired him and taught him to be humble.
“It was an unforgettable experience in which I encountered many activists,” he says. “I learned about what kept us as a people strong, and I also got to meet the descendents of former slaves and learn more about ‘the struggle’ that brought us to where we are now.”
Scrivens’ goal after graduating in June is to attend SU’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.
Kimberly Wolfe: Advancing dialogue between diverse communities
As the daughter of two Methodist ministers, Kimberly Wolfe grew up in a homewhere community service and bridge building within the community weren’t deliberate acts-they were a way of life. Her parents, the Rev. Marilyn Wolfe, pastor of University United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Thomas Wolfe, dean of Hendricks Chapel, instilled in both Kimberly and her older sister, Erin, the importance of being involved in the social fabric of the greater community.
During the past two years, Wolfe’s commitment to service has grown to include working with the Community Wide Dialogue (CWD), a program of the InterReligious Council of Central New York (IRC), which brings diverse communities together for frank discussion on stereotyping and racism and how society can work toward their elimination. Wolfe was a Nottingham High School participant in the program two years ago and now, as an intern with the IRC, has worked on bringing more participants–with their own voices and experiences–into the program.
Wolfe credits her parents as her inspiration. “My parents are both very involved in the community and they have been wonderful role models for me,” says Wolfe. “The conversations we would have as a family at the dinner table would get me so motivated and excited.”
Wolfe has been very involved in the community outreach efforts of her mother’s church and serves as a literacy volunteer.
Two years ago, she became involved in the CWD program. As involved as she is now, it’s hard to believe that Wolfe’s initial impression of the experience was one of trepidation. “Tackling these issues is not easy,” says Wolfe. “There are a lot of emotions and complicated layers to work through.”
Wolfe continued with the program and moved from a participant to a group facilitator, leading a group of 14 teens through an exploration that breaks down stereotypes, helps the students to be learn to be allies to one another and explores the ongoing effects of racism in America. “Kim has done this with grace, dignity and humor,” says CWD Director Beth Broadway.
This year, Wolfe accepted an internship with the CWD. In that role, she has planned the high school exchanges, assists with advisory board meetings, recruits participants for dialogue circles and has organized a dialogue for parents. “Kim is incredibly self-sufficient, always seeking new ways to contribute and is highly creative and motivated,” says Broadway. “We feel so blessed to have her with us as we move the community forward to end racism.”
After graduating in June, Wolfe plans to attend SU and is considering majoring in sociology and anthropology.
Ryedell Davis: Inspiring children to realize their full potential
Since he was 12, Ryedell Davis has been volunteering his time tutoring and mentoring in Syracuse youth centers, working to nurture the potential that lies in each child. “I do what I do because it is what feels good in my heart,” says Davis. “The kids are what inspire me and what is important.”
For Davis, the foundation of his work with youth was set early in his life. Growing up, he remembers many of his friends and fellow students who didn’t like school and who thought that the only way to be successful in school was through sports. His older brother, Gerald Funderberg, was a particularly strong influence in his life, providing constant encouragement and support. Davis also found that from his mother, Annetta Peterson, who he describes as his backbone. “She has always taught me that nothing is impossible,” says Davis.
Davis wants to set an example for the youth of the community that nothing is impossible with hard work and determination. For many years, he has volunteered at the Wilson Park, Central Village and Pioneer Homes Youth Centers, where he helps children with homework and other school-related assignments and facilitates activities. He has also participated in rallies to get government funding for the youth centers, and organized nonprofit dance parties to provide a positive recreational opportunity for children.
“Ryedell has always given his best to his community,” says Virginia Donohue, executive director of the OnPoint for College Program, through which Davis is a student.
“It is important for me to work with these children because they are who I am,” says Davis. “They are children who want to do well in school and they just need that push. I consider myself that push- it feels good to see a child run up to you and smile because you inspired them to do well on their test or papers.”
Davis is currently a junior at SU, majoring in child and family studies and African American studies, and takes classes in inclusive and special education. After graduation, he will continue working with youth, following in the footsteps of his older brother who works with youth in Detroit. “I have been working in my community since I was 12 and plan to work in my community forever,” says Davis. His future plans include opening a music studio so that the community youth can learn about music production and perhaps be inspired to become musicians. “My reward is the joy that these kids put in my heart by succeeding in school and in life,” he says.