Dr. King Celebration Features Marc Lamont Hill, Unsung Award Winners
More than 1,000 people were at the Carrier Dome Sunday night to pay tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to listen to the captivating words of Marc Lamont Hill, Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Morehouse College and a leading journalistic voice in social justice.
It was part of the 31st annual celebration in honor of the slain civil rights leader. The evening also featured student performances, along with the presentation of the Unsung Hero Awards.
Five members of the Syracuse University and greater Syracuse community were named as Unsung Heroes for 2016.
The winners are:
Kanisha Ffriend ’16
Syracuse University Student
Ffriend, a selected studies in education and disability studies major in the School of Education, was nominated for her leadership role in bringing attention to the issue of culture and disability. She is creator of The Girls’ Room, which aims to empower young women, building self-esteem through social skills and promotion of health body image. Ffriend also published “I, Too, Am a Dancer!,” a book about a young girl with a disability. Ffriend has maintained a leadership role in the Disability Cultural Center, the Disability Student Union and the Disability Services Office. In the community, she volunteers with the Prision Outreach Program at Grace Episcopal Church. Shantel Jones, who nominated Ffriend, writes “Kanisha Ffriend absolutely embodies the life, teachings and spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Kanisha understands that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is not exclusive, but inclusive, and it is our responsibility to tease out his dream so that it is attainable and understood by everyone, not only those who have been fortunate enough to attend college. Over the past three years I have watched Kanisha literally break down Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech and make it attainable to the community regardless of age, ability, gender or socioeconomic standing.”
Syracuse University Graduate Student
McEachern’s nominator, Tiffany Gray, calls her “a warrior, a caregiver, a storyteller, a healer, a poet, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a sorority member and a person with strength, power and passion.” McEachern utilizes her education, experiences, activism and various spaces she occupies to be that voice. She has been involved in Black Lives Matter events, was a co-facilitator of Fusion discussion group for queer people of color last year and attends many events/presentations that center on social justice on and off campus. Additionally, McEachern has made many contributions to her graduate program in counseling, worked at Crouse Hospital as a chemical dependency therapist, carries a full case load of clients and is now a marriage and family therapy doctoral student and teaching assistant. She created a group in the community called Queer Women of Color Collective!, which was formed as a way to unite queer and trans women of color in the Syracuse area through collaboration, laughter and learning in a radically healing space.
Imani Wallace ’16
Syracuse University Student
Wallace is a senior majoring in public relations in the Newhouse School and minoring in sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences. She was nominated by three members of our campus community. One of her nominators, Daquan Thomas, writes, “As the community service coordinator for the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People and Vice President of the Student African American Society, Imani has proactively led the charge against issues facing student of color through various workshops and themed discussions. She is a founder and president of the Black Artist League, which cultivates art for underrepresented students at Syracuse University. Moreover, as a member of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Woman’s Club, Imani advocates for protecting the business interests of women of color.” Wallace volunteers in the Syracuse City School District at Edward Smith School, working with 7th- and 8th-grade students. Ronald Jones, who also nominated Wallace, writes that she “is a student who truly believes in the synthesis of word, spoken truth and activism in order to create cathartic community connections.”
Syracuse University Staff Member
Jacobs serves as director of the Near West Side Initiative. His nominator, Marilyn Higgins, writes, “Every Monday evening for the past 10 years, Maarten and his wife, Andrea, have lead the youth ministry at Holy Family Church. I have known Maarten to spend Friday night driving a group of raucous teenagers to New York City following a week of 10-hour days at his job. Once there, he joins them in boarding a plane to El Salvador, where he teaches, models and leads through service, in the tradition of Martin Luther King. Three times he has brought youth to the most impoverished communities in that country to build bridges and provide relief to those with basic unmet human needs that are unthinkable situations in the U.S. He has led similar trips to some of the poorest neighborhoods in Buffalo, Washington, D.C., and Worcester, Mass. By providing respectful service to people living on the margins of society, Maarten is inspiring youth to see the value of all people and experience the deep satisfaction of making a difference in their lives.” Jacobs was a driving force behind the transformation of an abandoned rail yard into Lipe Art Park on West Fayette Street in Syracuse as the chairman of the 40 Below Public Art Task Force. He also volunteers regularly for the Literacy Coalition’s “Reading Buddies” program at Seymour School. He also coaches East Side Soccer.
Tan has been with the Syracuse City School District for 25 years, the past 14 serving as teaching assistant at Fowler High School, where he helps English as a second language (ESL) students learn English and math. His nominator, Julie Sherman, writes, “Although he works with primarily the ESL population, his door is open to all, and many other students take advantage of his mathematical knowledge. He comes in at 6 a.m. to work with students who come early and he leaves far in the evening after working with students after school—always making sure that they have a safe way home (for no extra pay). He often works with students through every break and every lunch period—he is truly a hero to those he teaches. At Fowler, though, he is an institution. One student arrived in 9th grade, and did not even know how to say the word bathroom in English. She stayed after school every day with Mr. Tan and he helped her learn English faster. She finished in the top 10 of her class. He never seeks acknowledgement for his hard work, and will blush when you offer it. I have known Mr. Tan for 7 years and I am still awe-inspired by his devotion and efforts.”