Mrs. Akins is a founder of the Black Males Working Academy in Lexington, which encourages youth to study and improve their reading, writing and communication skills. The students attend Saturday programs and work with teachers, counselors and advisers. Mrs. Akins developed the program in 2005 after finding that African American youth at Leestown Middle School in Lexington had the lowest performances on CATS test scores and high numbers of office visits. The First Baptist Church Bracktown had already been working with Leestown Middle School through the African American Coalition "Adopt A School Program" and Mrs. Akins expanded the program to include structure, discipline, encouragement and role models. The students in the program are taken on college tours and receive scholarships upon their graduation from high school.
Mrs. Akins is a believer in helping youth help themselves and become productive citizens by helping them realize their potential through hard work, discipline and confidence. Her program has already helped many students to succeed and is set to help many more realize their dreams.
Dr. Alan B. Anderson,
Bowling Green, KY
A professor of social ethics and racial justice at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Mr. Anderson has spent a lifetime working in, documenting and teaching civil and human rights. Dr. Anderson worked directly with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on projects to desegregate Albany, Ga., during the early 1960s and fasted for six days in jail to protest segregation and discrimination in the Georgia town.
Later, Dr. Anderson founded the Interracial Council of Methodists in Chicago and also joined the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations, where he helped arrange for Dr. King’s 1965 and 1966 campaigns to desegregate housing in Chicago. Dr. Anderson later wrote a book, “Confronting the Color Line, The Broken Promise of the Civil Rights Movement in Chicago,’’ which was nominated for a 1988 Pulitzer Prize in history. Dr. Anderson has been a leader in Bowling Green and Warren County on fair housing and equal opportunity in employment.
A retired Associate Editor/Development for The Louisville Courier-Journal. Mr. Aubespin spent 35 ground-breaking years at Kentucky’s largest daily newspaper as one of the first African American journalists to cover the Civil Rights movement in the Commonwealth during the 1960s. He participated in demonstrations to open restaurants, hotels and stores in Louisville and the south during the early 1960s. He worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and participated in the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965 that led to passage of the Voting Rights Act.
He became a leader and president of the National Association of Black Journalists, which fought to increase the number of minorities in newsrooms across the country. Mr. Aubespin has received many awards for his work in journalism and civil and human rights.
Dr. Roger Cleveland,
Dr. Cleveland is a professor at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond and is one of the leading trainers in the country on Cultural Responsive Teaching in the United States. Along with Mrs. Roszalyn Akins, he helped develop the BMW Academy in Lexington to help young black males excel in school. The program helps youth from the sixth through 12th grade achieve academically and socially by giving the teens extra tutoring and enrichment. The boys visit colleges and must perform extra work in addition to their normal studies on Saturdays. The result is that the young men in program perform 25 percent higher in mathematics and reading than other youth who do not attend the program. The students in the program are encouraged to attend college and develop life skills and plans. The BMC Academy is a collaborative effort of First Bracktown Inc. and the Fayette County Schools. The BMW Academy was selected by Bluegrass Tomorrow fir innovation in helping young people. The BMW Academy has also received the 2010 Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Award.
William E. Cofield Sr.,
He was president of the Kentucky NAACP for 28 years before retiring from the position in 2013. He dedicated his life to equal rights in housing, employment and public accommodations on the national, state and local level as a lifetime member of the NAACP. Mr. Cofield has been a member of the National NAACP Board of Directors since 1986. As a member of the National Board, he helped promote dynamic young leaders like former National NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, who increased the organization’s youth membership. During Mr. Cofield’s tenure, the Kentucky NAACP expanded its chapters, registered more youth members, developed scholarship programs and increased outreach to other minority groups. Mr. Cofield has also served as chair of the Frankfort-Franklin County NAACP for many years and in 1991 became the first African American appointed to the Frankfort-Franklin County Board of Education. Mr. Cofield was president of the National Caucus of Black School Board Members in 2004. Mr. Cofield has established voter registration drives in Kentucky, supports initiatives to give felons the right to vote.
Samuel R. Coleman, Sr. (1929 – 2002), Middlesboro, KY
He was a leader and mentor in his community. He organized the minority veteran community by forming from scratch, the “Middlesboro Appalachian Region Black Veteran Association.’’ The organization was the first branch of the National Association of Black Veterans in the state of Kentucky. The organization produced projects and outreach efforts to address physical, spiritual, educational, social, judicial and economic issues in Eastern Kentucky. Mr. Coleman was instrumental in organizing and becoming President of the Christian Community Club organization in Middlesboro. The purpose of the club was to make the community safer; to improve community relations; to lend a hand to neighbors; and, to reach out to the youth of the community. He was strong advocate of education and the right of young people to receive a quality education and a dedicated mentor to many students in his community. He would often use the saying “to teach is to touch a life forever.”
She has spent more than 25 years as a trailblazing journalist and columnist at The Lexington Herald-Leader. Ms. Davis is among the few female African American columnists at a major daily newspaper in the United States. And she uses is her column to fight for the rights of the homeless; immigrants; domestic violence victims, Gays, African Americans and others who have faced discrimination. She is a champion of causes ranging from education to fair housing to employment. She believes that former felons should get a second chance at being citizens by having the right to vote. Ms. Davis has written columns about black men who had been bullied as youth who later grew up to become motivational speakers. She has written about programs that have helped struggling young mothers go back to school and complete their education. She has written about the barriers that people with disabilities have to overcome and she has implored her neighbors to welcome everyone, regardless of their race, color, gender, national origin or sexual orientation.
He is a civil rights leader, college administrator, educator, jazz enthusiast and arts patron who has used his love of the humanities to advance humanity. Mr. Grundy began a 40-year affiliation with the University of Kentucky during the 1960s, when he became a leader of the Black Student Union and lobbied college leaders for more Black History courses, more diversity on staff and administration, and a welcome atmosphere for all students of color. Mr. Grundy later broke new barriers at UK by becoming the director of the office of Minority Affairs (Multicultural Affairs) and establishing the Martin Luther King Cultural Center, where students could hear entertainers, writers, actors and actresses and singers speak about their lives. Such luminaries as Muhammad Ali, Coretta Scott King, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou, Spike Lee, Alex Haley, Nikki Giovanni, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, and the Boys Choir of Harlem have appeared at UK through Mr. Grundy’s auspices.
He is a renowned sculptor whose work with African American themes have found homes across America - from the Joe Louis statute in Detroit to the Booker T. Washington statute at Hampton University in Virginia, to the York statute in Louisville to the acclaimed artwork in Washington D.C. that salutes the brave African American Civil War soldiers depicted in the Oscar-winning movie, “Glory,’’ - Mr. Hamilton has touched the hearts and souls of millions who view his work. “The talent of his creations provides voice to the voiceless. It also provides a sense of hope,’’ said a nominator, Steve Crump of WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina. “The projects that come from his soul continue to inspire. It’s not just the individuals he has brought to life; he has a talent of showcasing many of the stories that played a role in our nation’s struggle for equality.”
Edmond P. “Pete’’ Karem,
Judge Karem is retired from the Kentucky Court of Appeals, where he served in 1995, and from the Jefferson Circuit Court, where he served from 1984-1993. Judge Karem also served nine years – seven as chair – on the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights from the 1970s to the early 1980s. A 1968 graduate of the University of Louisville Law School, He is known for donating countless hours to many organizations and agencies, including the Kentucky Youth Advocates; the Louisville Bar Association, where he served as president in 1980; Spalding University Board of Overseers; Chief Judge of Jefferson Circuit Court and the Center for Educational Leadership.
Judge Karem began his career as a teacher at Bishop David High School in Louisville and has retained his mentorship of youth as a hearing officer for the Kentucky High School Athletic Association as an appeals hearing officer on eligibility. He has worked tirelessly in the struggle for equality and justice in the Commonwealth
Shelby Lanier Jr.,
For Detective Shelby Lanier Jr. of the Louisville Metro Police Department, “To Serve and Protect’’ wasn’t a slogan, but a way of life, a creed that he used to improve the lives of his family, friends and the public he worked for. As a police officer, he helped solve murders and robberies. He walked the beat and rode motorcycles. But he did much more during his off-hours to advance civil rights by building relationships between police and the community and between officers and their command. He dedicated his life to equality and counseled inmates because he believed they deserved a second chance. He joined Louisville Police in 1961 and organized the Black Police Officers Organization 10 years later, serving as its first president. In 1972, he became a co-founder of the National Black Police Association and became chairman of that organization in 1990. Mr. Lanier believed that his department must treat the blacks within its ranks fairly before it could seek trust from the community.
Bowling Green, KY
Whether staring down members of the Ku Klux Klan, honoring women whose civil rights achievements were overlooked by history, teaching young girls to believe in themselves, fighting for safe and affordable housing for people with disabilities or bringing police and young men of color together in a peace forum, Mrs. Linda McCray, the former long-time Executive Director of the Bowling Green Human Rights Commission, has used her life as a model for non-violent social change. She was the executive director of the Bowling Green Human Rights Commission from August 2001 through September 2012. During that time, she took the agency from a small rented space with one staff member to purchasing its own building with numerous staff members who fight for fair housing, employment, public accommodations and financial transactions. In 1999, Mrs. McCray became a charter member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Planning Committee, which honors the slain civil rights leader every year with forums and educational programs. She has organized candidate forums to give the public information on people running for local government. She has led voter registration drives. And she has filed many legal actions against employers and building owners who had denied people jobs or housing because of their race, color, gender, disability, religion, national origin or family status. She worked with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights to organize a forum for police and young men to build bridges instead of barriers. She has organized housing fairs to help low-income people buy homes.
William F. McMurry, (1955- ),
A Louisville attorney who has earned international recognition because of his landmark case against the Catholic Church that resulted in a $25. 7 million settlement for 243 people who were sexually abused by priests; a $2.5 million judgment against the Imperial Klan of America for severely beating a man because of his color; a $125,000 award for a low-income woman who sued a hospital that released information on her medical status; and a $1,500 ruling for a family whose young son was jailed after they missed a payment for a couch. His quest for justice for the disadvantaged and underrepresented is just as important as the monetary settlements. He is a courageous lawyer who does not shrink in fear from the Klan or powerful lawyers seeking to deny people’s rights.
She has been Executive Director of the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission since 2008. She was assistant director at the agency for 10 years before being elevated to the top spot. She has also worked for the Kentucky Cabinet for Families and Children and the Department of Public Advocacy. Besides investigating and rooting out local cases of discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations, Mrs. Miller-Cooper has overseen the publication of groundbreaking reports such as “Making Louisville Home for Us All: A 20-year Action Plan for Fair Housing,’’ which documents past discrimination and includes remedies to prevent future issues. Mrs. Miller-Cooper hosts annual Race Relations Conference each year in Louisville and brings all stakeholders to the table for peace and understanding.
She has worked with Jefferson County Public Schools on educational issues and encouraged parents to participate in the Mayor’s Initiative for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods. Mrs. Miller-Cooper established Cross Cultural Connections to help people understand their common humanity. She has helped African Americans and Latinos work together on issues such as housing, employment, public accommodations, and education through mentoring programs. She has gone over and beyond her job title and daily responsibilities in furthering the aims of civil and human rights in the Louisville community.
V. Ann Newman,
She was a board member of the Kentucky Human Rights Commission from 2007-2013. She reviewed of hundreds cases involving discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and financial transactions. Commissioner Newman represented the 7th District, which included her home areas of Ashland and Boyd County in Northeastern Kentucky. For more than six years, Ms. Newman drove hundreds of miles from Ashland to Louisville to hear human rights cases.
During this time, she was also president of the Boyd and Greenup County NAACP, where she organized the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Program, Parade and Luncheon; served as secretary of the Kentucky State NAACP, where she updated the organization’s website to include contact information for several dozen local chapters; raised scholarship money for minority students; volunteered for an Ashland planning committee that charted the growth of the city; worked her full-time job for the Ashland Inc. Credit Union; and ran her own diversity-training company, Newman and Associates.
She has been a longtime member of the Ashland Human Rights Commission.
Woodford R. Porter Sr., (1918-2008),
In 1958, Mr. Porter became the first African American elected to the Louisville Board of Education and later became chairman of the board and president of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees, where he served for 23 years. He was the owner of A.D. Porter and Sons Funeral Home in Louisville and a member of the YMCA Metropolitan Board and was a veteran of World War II. Mr. Porter is credited with leading U of L to national recognition as a research university that welcomes students from around the world. He stressed the importance of education from kindergarten through high school through college. The College of Education and Human Development Building at U of L was named in honor of Mr. Porter and his wife, Harriett Porter.
Scottie Wayne Saltsman, (1968-2013),
Mr. Saltsman, died far too young to realize all of his dreams. One goal that eluded him was having his beloved hometown of Richmond approve a Fairness Ordinance that would have granted civil rights protection in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He was a supervisor at the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training and law enforcement instructor at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. He knew unfairness when he saw it. And he saw many Gay, Lesbian and Transgender people being discriminated against in Kentucky. So he joined the Richmond Human Rights Commission to champion the rights of all people who live, work or visited Richmond. As secretary of the Richmond Human Commission and played key roles in many of the group’s successes, from improved police-community relations to annual cultural celebrations featuring music, food and dance from many different countries.
Still, he never gave up on passing local and statewide Fairness Ordinances. He also worked to repeal a Kentucky law that banned marriage for Gay and Lesbian couples. Mr. Saltsman was an officer of the Native American Intertribal Alliance and Richmond Pow-Wow Association, where he fought for the full recognition and appreciation of Indians in Kentucky.
Frank L. Stanley Jr., (1937-2007),
The landmark Kentucky Civil Rights Act would not have passed in 1966 without the drive, courage, organization and leadership of Frank L. Stanley Jr., the publisher of the Louisville Defender. He used his clout as a newspaper publisher to bring together business, social, educational, labor and political leaders to form the Allied Organization for Civil Rights to lobby the governor and the General Assembly on behalf of the KY Civil Rights Act. Mr. Stanley supported the 1963 March on Washington by getting many Kentuckians railroad transportation to D.C. After participating in the 1963 Washington March, Mr. Stanley believed that the historic program could be duplicated in Kentucky – and be just as successful in protecting minority rights in housing, employment and public accommodations. Because of his dynamic leadership, we were able to get the KY Civil Rights Act in 1966. Dr. King himself called the Kentucky Civil Rights Act “the strongest and most comprehensive civil rights bill passed by a Southern state.
Mr. Stanley marched and demonstrated and demanded an end to segregation in Louisville. In 1961, Mr. Stanley worked with high school students who picketed businesses that refused to serve them. He helped raise money and served as a mentor and advisor who organized boycotts. Mr. Stanley supported a voter registration drive in the early 1960s that swept out of office Louisville city officials who had opposed public accommodations for minorities. The voter registration drive resulted in the election of new Louisville officials who approved a public accommodations ordinance in 1963. Mr. Stanley worked with the NAACP and also served as the associate director of the Louisville Urban League, where he fought for jobs and fair wages for minorities. In 1968 he became executive director of the Los Angeles Urban League. He became publisher of the Louisville Defender after his father died.
Dr. Pruitt Owsley Sweeney, (1895-1960),
Dr. Sweeney, a dentist and businessman, who ,through hard work and perseverance, rose from humble origins to become one of the 100 richest African Americans of his time, according to Ebony Magazine. However, Dr. Sweeney’s true wealth comes from his legacy as a civil rights leader who waged a successful legal battle in 1952 to integrate public golf courses in Louisville.
Dr. Sweeney was president of the Louisville NAACP in 1937. He fought for equal pay for black and white teachers and became chairman of the Mammoth Life Insurance Co. and the Louisville Urban League. He never strayed from his concerns of the lack of opportunity for other African Americans.
bell hooks (Dr. Gloria Jean Watkins),
The author of 25 books, numerous magazine and newspaper articles on education, racism and feminism. Dr. hooks has taught and lectured at many colleges and universities across the country, including Yale University and Oberlin College. She has worked at Berea College since 2004, where she serves as a distinguished professor in Appalachian Studies. Dr. hooks often writes about racism, sexism and gender politics. Her work has been translated into more than 20 languages, and she began writing her first book, “Ain’t I a Woman,’’ at the age of 19. Ms. hooks is perhaps one of Kentucky’s best known writers, black or white, and she is known to challenge the status quo. She implores students to think for themselves and challenge themselves to learn about other cultures, countries and living conditions. She has urged women to fight against sexist oppression and participate in their liberation - and the same goes for African Americans and others who have been disadvantaged. Her work epitomizes the Berea College motto: “God has made of one blood all peoples of the Earth.’’ Berea Mayor Steven Connelly noted that Dr. hooks quietly provides financial support to an extended family.
Ms. hooks took her professional name to honor her grandmother, also named Bell Hooks. Ms. hooks doesn’t capitalize her pen name for two reasons: one is to distinguish herself from her grandmother; the other is to draw attention to her work and not her name.
Judge Judy Moberly West, (1941-1991),
Lakeside Park, KY
Judy West wanted to become a lawyer when she was a young woman in the early 1960s. But there were few female attorneys in Kentucky at the time and Mrs. West didn’t have any role models that she could get guidance from. She was the only woman in her class at the University of Kentucky Law School, but Mrs. West more than held her own with the men - she was ranked second in her class after her first semester.
She ran a private legal practice for three years before Gov. John Y. Brown appointed her in 1980 as the first woman judge in Kenton County District Court. Mrs. West was elected three times to district court before being appointed as the first woman on the Kentucky Court of Appeals in March 1987 by Gov. Martha Layne Collins. Judge West had broken barriers that no woman in Kentucky had encountered. And, rather than keep her success to herself, she reached out to other women and encouraged them to join the legal profession
Her sharp mind was not limited to court. She was the president and founder of the Hope Cottage Guild to help children; she served on the Kentucky Tomorrow Commission and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. She was named an Outstanding Woman of Northern Kentucky by The Kentucky Post in 1987. As a juvenile court judge, she was known for her compassion and ability to treat each child as an individual. In 1991, the Northern Kentucky Bar Association established the annual Judge Judy M. West Lecture Series to produce a scholarship for a female student at Chase Law School.
Abraham A. Williams,
Bowling Green, KY
Executive Director of the Bowling Green Housing Authority since 1995. When he moved to Bowling Green 19 years ago, he was told that public housing children are incapable of learning. But Mr. Williams didn’t believe the naysayers. He developed an After School program that matches housing authority children with students from nearby Western Kentucky University. The program began in 1996 with 13 kids and now more than 120-income children receiving daily tutoring. For the past seven years, Mr. Williams has taken children on tours of Historic Black Colleges and Universities from Louisiana to Washington, D.C. He has worked with WKU to bring 15 public housing children to China during the past three years.
Mr. Williams’ also developed programs in Bowling Green that have moved 92 families from public housing to home ownership. He established a welfare to work program that has helped more than 600 people find jobs. And he is the founder of the “Why Try’’ program that uses more than 40 African American men as role models for students in Bowling Green and Warren County. He serves as a role model for the elimination of barriers that restrict the civil rights of any people.
Dr. Harrison Benjamin Wilson Jr.,
He has enjoyed a long and successful career as a college president, health professor and basketball coach. In 1946, he was denied enrollment into the state’s flagship college, the University of Kentucky because of his race. It would be another two years – and a major lawsuit – before Lyman T. Johnson was admitted to the University of Kentucky. Instead of going to UK, Mr. Wilson enrolled at Kentucky State, the historic black college in Frankfort, and eventually earned his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. He became a coach at Jackson State University.
In 1975, Dr. Wilson began a 22-year tenure as president of Norfolk State University in Virginia. While president from 1975-1997, Dr. Wilson increased the number of graduate programs, expanded the Naval ROTC program- which generated more minority officers to the Navy - and established a doctoral program in social work. He also established more science courses and did outreach to area businesses and public schools to get jobs for his students.
This year, the University of Kentucky honored Dr. Wilson with an honorary doctorate. His life has embodied both the dark history of racism in Kentucky and the best aspirations and achievements that we value in the Commonwealth. His life’s work opened the door for young men and women of color to acquire the education and opportunities so fundamental to undoing the continuing effects of racism and injustice in society.