Thursday, Feb. 6 was host to Drew University’s second annual MLK awards. Though Drew has held an MLK day of service on the nationally recognized MLK Jr. Day for many years, the MLK awards were started last year by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). This year’s event was also supported by the Office of the Dean of Student Engagement and Student Leaders, Launch Identity/Affinity Communities, Freedom School, Department of Music, Alumni and Parent Communities and the Office of Facilities and Events.
GRAPHIC COURTESY OF KASSEL FRANCO GARIBAY
The purpose of the awards are to honor and reward “the amazing work that the Drew Community has done to carry out a message of peace and inclusion” while honoring the legacy of MLK Jr.
The event started with music from the Drew University Chorale and the Drew University Pan African Choir. After an address from Dean Daniel Pascoe Agular, that focused on the MLK quote “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” Provost Debra Liebowitz presented this year’s awards.
The award is presented to one faculty member, one staff member and two students, one graduate and one undergraduate. This year it was awarded to Daniel Viera (‘22), Kirsten Trambley (T’20), Coordinator of Residential Engagement of Tolley/Brown (CRE) Rachel Sawyer and Associate Professor of Language and Culture in the Practice of Ministry Director Katherine Brown.
Viera was recognized for his work in the Latinx communities, such as serving on the ARIEL board, and his focus on environmentalist issues. Trambley is the president of the Theological Student Association and helps lead the “Community Conversations” on campus. Sawyer, in addition to her role as a CRE, serves as advisor for cultural clubs such as the Black Student Union and ARIEL and started the Black and Brown at Drew series. Brown was honored for her work with the Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action committees on campus as well as her work on language development of second language speakers at Drew.
Dr. Sari Pascoe, the head of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, led the event and the conversation which revolved around the questions “What factors shape what we know, what we value and what we believe about this identity?” and “How can we facilitate systems that are inclusive and equitable for all Drew members and how can we leverage our launch identity and affinity communities for this purpose?” Attendees, which included alumni, faculty, staff, administrators and students from all schools, were grouped together by identity and affinity communities to discuss these questions.
CRE Sawyer stated, “I’m excited to win this award because I feel like I stand on my ancestors’ shoulders and I feel like the work that I’m doing is something that my ancestors can be proud of.” She also gave a nod to the students she works alongside, stating “I feel like this award goes to the students really for trusting me because it can be a lot to trust a new staff member. This award is for them and not for me. I get to wake up every day and do the work I love.”
Viera stated, “It’s just reassuring, I’m a first generation student so as soon as I’m out of here I’m calling my mom, letting her know I got my first award in college. It’s wonderful, I’m left without words.” In terms of continuing the work, he stated, “You can never do enough; I just hope to keep doing what I’m doing now. I’m glad that what I’ve been doing has gotten recognized but that doesn’t mean I stop now.”
While each of the table leaders shared takeaways and “A-ha” moments from their specific groups discussions, many of the sentiments that were echoed were about increasing accessibility and visibility around these identities and communities. There was also an echoed desire for more listening and dialogue in collaborative spaces.