MLK Beloved Community Award Recipients

February 08, 2022
Submitted By: Office of Diversity and Community Engagement

The Office of Diversity and Community Engagement and the MLK Observance Planning Committee are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022 MLK Beloved Community Award. These awards are presented to campus and external community members who honor the spirit of the Beloved Community Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned, by:

  • Working hard to improve their community, city, and the world
  • Making a positive difference in the lives of others
  • Paying forward their work in various ways
  • Engaging in the work of educating themselves on topics of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice (DEIJ)

Please join us in congratulating the awardees:

Student: Russell Johnson ‘22, President, University of Hartford Chapter of the NAACP

Russell Johnson has exemplified what the “Beloved Community” in his consistent advocacy for justice and fairness in the spaces he occupies. Russell is living proof that regardless of age and experience, one can make a conscious effort to improve the situations and circumstances that affect our lives and the lives of the people around us. Over the years he has made a point to show the deep love he has for his black people, and has marked his path at the University of Hartford as a path for young black folks coming after him to proudly follow.

Staff: Llonia Rojan Jackson ‘94, Director, Cultural Diversity and Belonging

Dr. King dreamed of a world that would be "transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice”. Llonia actively lives this dream as the Director of Student Equity and Belonging in the Office of Student Engagement and Inclusion (OSEI). She authentically and unapologetically evaluates, challenges, and subsequently provides instruction that develop systems that support and advocate for the comprehensiveness of a diverse community.

She is a butterfly who through her dedication offers our shared community a glimpse of what is possible. A singular butterfly can be the catalyst to immense change. Llonia continues to be a catalyst for change. “This provides me with a bounty of hope. In beating our wings together, I am assured that we will create winds of DEIJB that exponentially ripple out around the world. Winds that amend any system that doesn't support and understand the importance of DEIJB.

Faculty: Dr. Katherine Black, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences

Dean Katherine Black has left no stone unturned in helping to promote and further the university’s commitment to the work of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice.

Dean Black has facilitated various diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts in the College of Arts and Sciences over the last couple of years. Examples include developing the College’s statement of DEI commitments; drafting ground rules for constructive and respectful discourse and decision-making; revising the College’s promotion, tenure, and re-appointment guidelines to acknowledge DEI work and eliminate potential biases; surveying A&S students about their ideas to diversify the curriculum and ensure an inclusive learning environment; creating DEI curriculum development grants for faculty to revamp their courses; and updating the criteria for diversity courses in the general education curriculum.

Alum: Senator Sonya Halpern M’90

The Honorable Sonya Halpern is a state senator in Georgia, representing one of the very diverse and multi-faceted communities surrounding Atlanta, MLK's birthplace. In her work as a senator, she works endlessly on education, equity, and being a mediator between competing political factions at the state. She is a member of several important civic boards and organizations, including the Atlanta YMCA, and is constantly giving back to her community in powerful ways.

Senator Halpern believes in the power of education, the arts, and equity. Her attitudes, beliefs, and strong convictions, as they come to fruition in real work and action, are amazing examples of the better world we could all inhabit.

Community Member: Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips, a retired educator, has been a pillar in the Hartford community for many years. He is the founding member of the community organization "Men Standing Up Against Violence" in the city of Hartford. Phillips and his organization go into the north end of Hartford and many other locations multiple times a year in an attempt to stop the violence in our streets.

One of Phillips' goals is to give a sense of hope and direction to the community youth to help create lasting changes.

The Imperative of the Beloved Community

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. popularized the notion of the “Beloved Community.” King envisioned the Beloved Community as a society based on justice, equal opportunity, and love of one’s fellow human beings. Through his writings and his speeches, he challenged all of us to find the courage to create positive change in a troubled world. He taught us the importance of listening to and learning from others. He shared his dream, offering a glimpse of what was possible. He inspired generations to chart a course of action, to have real impact.

Congratulations to all of our recipients!