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Eastern Presents 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Awards

Published on March 02, 2020

Eastern Presents 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Awards

 Left to right: Student Lacoy Brown '20; Kristen Scavone, director of the Office of AccessAbility Services; Rev. AJ Johnson, pastor of the Urban Hope Refuge Church in Hartford.

Health Sciences major Lacoy Brown '20; Kristen Scavone, director of the Office of AccessAbility Services; and JoAnn Price, managing partner and co-founder of Fairview Capital Partners in West Hartford, received Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards at Eastern Connecticut State University's annual awards reception on Feb. 26. The event marked the 25th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. award program at Eastern.

Eastern student Ahiyana Morris opened the reception by leading the audience in a spirited singing of "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Eastern President Elsa Núñez then acknowledged the award recipients and reminded the assembly of three important lessons that Martin Luther King Jr. had taught us.

"First, Dr. King told us that being silent in the face of evil is no less a moral failure than the acts of evildoers," said Núñez. Calling the present time "as dangerous for minorities and the vulnerable as it was 60 years ago," she quoted King, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

"Secondly, Dr. King was clear that social injustice, poverty and inequality cross ethnic and racial lines; all of us must fight for justice and equity for all. Finally, Dr. King insisted that we must fight from a position of love and non-violence. . . in a hand-written note recently discovered, Dr. King wrote, "'Love is the greatest force in the universe. It is the heartbeat of the moral cosmos. He who loves is a participant in the being of God.'"

Brown, of Hartford, won the award in the student category. She serves in Eastern's Department of Wellness Education and Promotion, where she implemented the 'Eating for Success' nutritional program to combat food insecurity on campus. She also is a residential camp counselor with extensive experience working with diverse populations, including people with intellectual and physical disabilities, and as a tutor and mentor for children and young adolescents.

"My passion to become an advocate for the disadvantaged stems from my experiences of being marginalized, stigmatized and unseen as an African-American woman," said Brown. "I have a desire to educate communities in ways they can thrive by adopting healthy behaviors and utilizing their resources."

Brown said she was excited about her plans to serve for two years as a community health specialist with the U.S. Peace Corps in Cameroon after graduating in May. "Thank you for believing in me so that I can make a positive impact in our community," said Brown in accepting her award.

Scavone, president-elect of the Connecticut Association on Higher Education and Disability, won the faculty/staff award. She has served in the Office of AccessAbility Services (OAS) since 2017, first as a graduate intern, and now as director. She also serves on the CSCU System Accessibility Advisory Committee and worked with the Board of Regents to develop the board's policy on disability.

"I am queer, I am a woman, I am disabled, and I am up here, so it can be done," said Scavone, in accepting the award. "Thank you for letting me continue Dr. King's journey and his message of love."

Price, who was unable to attend the ceremony, won the community service award. Demali Abbensett, a member of the advising staff at Eastern, accepted the award in her honor.

In 1994, Price and her company, Fairview Capital Partners, became the catalyst for significant change in the way institutional investors approached diversity through investment. Price has served as a director of the Vantagepoint Funds; as a member of the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education; and as board chair of the Amistad Center for Art and Culture and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

"Ms. Price is a beloved heroine to all impacted by her grace and caring," said Stacey Close, Eastern's associate provost and vice president for equity and diversity. "Loved by legions of young women, she has serious respect among African American men. I know this to be true because I am one of those men!"

Rev. AJ Johnson, pastor of the Urban Hope Refuge Church in Hartford, delivered the keynote address. He talked about the "systematic oppression" that King saw in the nation in the 1960s, and the "passion" King had for his work. "His emotions and beliefs moved a country." Noting that King had logged six million miles from 1957-68 in leading the struggle for civil rights, Johnson urged the audience to "let passion and joy shine through your deeds."


Written by Dwight Bachman and Ed Osborn