Four passionate trailblazers were recognized Saturday at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. awards luncheon.
The event at the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center in Normal honored two teens and two adults from the Twin Cities while focusing on the need to stand up to injustice and spur change through action.
Appellate Justice James A. Knecht, 1996 winner of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, spoke to a crowd of hundreds before the winners were introduced.
“Dr. King said the hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict. We’re not here today to be neutral. We are here to turn righteous anger into action,” said Knecht.
He encouraged attendees to “cast aside fear and vote for hope.”
“Speak out, march, practice compassion and decency, revere justice and vote,” said Knecht. “Vote with your collective voices. Vote with your feet as you march with the drumbeat of social change. Fill the ballot box with your hopes and dreams of what America can be.”
Mayors Chris Koos of Normal and Tari Renner of Bloomington recognized the award recipients.
Winners of the youth “I Have a Dream Award” were University High School senior Jordyn Blythe of Bloomington and Normal Community West High School senior Xavier Higgins of Normal.
Blythe cofounded Serve Plus One, an organization providing service activities and reflection for teens. She also volunteers at several local organizations and cofounded U High’s Black Student Union.
“To all of the youth in the room,” she said, “it is our time now. Don’t be passive. You are never too young to serve. Work to make our world better now because this is what we inherit. Be compassionate and be loving.”
At Normal West, Higgins leads the Best Buddies program to foster friendships with students with physical and intellectual disabilities. He’s also involved in the freshman mentoring program.
“I plan to major in college in computer science and bring technology to people who can’t easily access it so they can work to excel themselves in their own homes,” said Higgins.
Adult recipients were Andre Hursey of Normal and the late Lorenzo Marshall of Bloomington.
Hursey volunteers with several children’s groups in the community and recently founded the Jule Foundation, an organization that offers financial literacy, tutoring and motivational speaking opportunities for youth.
“I want to thank my mother, Gloria, for planting that seed early on and truly showing me the way of serving others in our community,” said Hursey.
Elaine Marshall of Bloomington accepted the award on behalf of her husband who passed away in August.
Lorenzo Marshall volunteered in the Twin Cities and chaired the Juneteenth celebration in Bloomington. Elaine Marshall said her husband would have been humbled to be recognized.
“I can personally attest to the energy and time Lorenzo spent helping mentor others to be their best,” said Elaine Marshall. “Reflecting back on the memories we had in the 42 years we were together really helps the healing process. This award today is something I can add to the reflection of those memories.”