Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929-April 4, 1968) worked against the triple evils of poverty, racism, and militarism by utilizing the six principles of nonviolence, and the six steps of nonviolent social change. (1)

mlkIn December 1955, he led the first great African-American nonviolent demonstration in the contemporary United States, the bus boycott. On December 21, 1956, after 382 days, the Supreme Court of the United States declared the laws requiring segregation on buses unconstitutional. In 1957, he was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He took ideals from Christianity,  operational techniques from Gandhi, and integrated them into the organization. In the eleven-year period between 1957 and 1968, King traveled over six million miles and spoke over twenty-five hundred times, wrote five books and numerous articles. In those years, he led a massive protest in Birmingham, Alabama, that caught the attention of the entire world, providing what he called a coalition of conscience, and inspiring his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," a manifesto of the African-American revolution; he planned the drives in Alabama for the registration of African-Americans voters; he directed the peaceful march on Washington, D.C., of 250,000 people to whom he delivered his address, "I Have a Dream." He became not only the symbolic leader of American black people but also a world figure. At the age of thirty-five, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the youngest man to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On the evening of April 4, 1968, while standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city, he was assassinated. (2)

The Diversity Standing Committee at Greenfield Community College invites nominations for two annual awards honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Living the Dream and Bright Lights awards will go to individuals or organizations that have carried on the ideals of MLK in their school or community.

  1. The Bright Lights Award is for young people. Nominations for any individual or group of individuals up to the age of 22 are welcome for this award.
  2. The Living the Dream Award is for people over 22 years of age. Nominations for any individual or group of individuals are welcome for this award.

Former Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura said in 2003 about the creation of these awards: “Dr. King once advised a graduating class to ‘Make a career of humanity and commit yourself to the noble struggle for human rights.’ We have many such people in our communities who stand up for social justice and the values and ideas that Dr. King taught. Those are the kind of people we hope to learn about through your nominations.”

Former Director of Diversity Herb Hentz said, “My favorite words of Martin Luther King are ‘I have a dream.’ Of course we all continue to work towards fulfilling that dream of a day when people come together without looking at one another on the basis of race, religion, gender, etc., but as human beings.”

The DSC will consider the following qualifications.

Candidates will:

  • Demonstrate outstanding commitment and service to the ideals of diversity, equity, and inclusion or demonstrate emerging or sustained commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts proportionate to their capacity to do so
  • Show visible and continuing leadership in one or more of the following areas: civil rights, community, and/or civic services
  • Raise awareness of social injustice, speak on behalf of justice, celebrate diversity, and impel action in building a better future for all. Outcomes should include clear expression of deliverables or clear achievements in community service with an emphasis on actions leading to long-term benefits to recipients and a community at large
  • Show service and advocacy for the human rights of those marginalized because of poverty, race or ethnicity, national origin, gender, age, or any other reason
  • Innovate for change with work that demonstrates innovation and creativity in addressing issues related to social justice.
  • Exemplify MLK’s nonviolent philosophy and the nonviolent philosophies of other activists in the quest for improved human relations and civil rights.

(1) For more on the King philosophy, visit

(2) Biography adapted from

The deadline for nominations for 2025 awards has been extended to Monday, 6 January 2025. The awards will be presented at a GCC All College Meeting. (Note: after you select an award option, more prompts will appear.)

Year Bright Lights Award Living the Dream Award
2023 The Academy at Charlemont's Social Justice Council Gloria Matlock
2022 Solange Loomis
Rio Santos
Kelandra Hurd
2021 Angela Rivero
Yosola Camille
Leo Hwang
Jacob Milton
2020 Acadia Black Penny Ricketts
2019 Monte Belmonte
Sitabile Maodzwa
2018 Marina Osit Kenny Chartrand
2017 Julia Fedoruk Dovi Afesi
2016 Carys Lamberg and Hannah (Willow) Lyon-Wildman Julia Moore
2013 Amanda Mundt Abbie Jenks
2012 Juliana Aprileo Herb Hentz
2011 Bailey W. Jackson III and Timothy Bullock
2010 Laura Aierstuck Tammy Campbell
2009 Court Dorsey
2008 8th grade students at Hilltop Montessori School in Brattleboro, VT Sunny Miller
2007 Anthony Ford, Kayla Ford, Devin Gaynor, Kyle Jackson, Andrew Marte, Samantha Marte, and Jeremy Ortiz Maria Tarajano Rodman
2006 Alice L. Urban Mistinguette Smith
2005 Jaymee Conway, Tasha Gaston, Adriana Lara, Ashley Wheeler, and Ashley Bruno Juanita Nelson and Robert "Chip" Wood
2004 Lawanza F. Brewington, Dwayne L. Brewington, and the Honorable Stanley C. Rosenberg