Eleven people and organizations, including students, have been named winners of the 2021 MLK Diversity Awards, which honor those who demonstrate a commitment to diversity, inclusion and who exemplify the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by working to make his dreams a reality.
A virtual ceremony at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 15, hosted by Tempe and the Human Relations Commission, will honor this year’s winners for making Tempe a more inclusive community. The program will be available live on Tempe 11, on the Tempe Facebook page, on Cox cable channel 11 and on Century Link 8012.
Keynote speaker is Tempe Mayor Corey D. Woods, who will discuss the city’s equity and inclusion efforts.
Award winners are nominated by the Tempe community and chosen by the Tempe Human Relations Commission.
This year’s winners:
African American Advisory Committee – Prayer Breakfast Sub-Committee: Vera Brooks, Michelle Brooks-Totress and Kim Dartez established the Black History Month Faith Action Prayer Breakfast in 2019 as part of their work with the African American Advisory Committee. The Prayer Breakfast has included representatives from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. Groups at the breakfast show what faith in action looks like in their communities in Tempe.
Brooks, Brooks-Totress and Dartez have combined for more than 30 years of volunteering and educating Tempeans about the contributions of African Americans.
Joseph Delgardo: As a freshman at Northeastern University, Delgardo was introduced to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. after a speech at Roxbury Church in Boston. After hearing King, Delgardo made a vow to live his life in service to others. He has dedicated his energy to voter registration in Arizona, including thousands at Arizona State University as well as at the Aloha Festival, Salute to Service events, Juneteenth and the AGC Collectors Club of Arizona.
Delgardo recently was appointed to the Arizona Commission on African American Affairs. He has helped form future leaders by inviting over 500 middle and high school students to visit the Arizona Capitol to learn about state government.
Jazin Hodge: An New York University student with his sights set on law school, Hodge can be found volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club Ladmo Branch, working with national groups on civic and leadership opportunities for young Black men or working on local food drives during the pandemic to ensure that vulnerable youth don’t go hungry.
Understanding that systemic change comes from active and visible participation by members of the community, Hodge has been active in Black Lives Matter, and volunteered with Our Voice Our Vote, Black Men’s Initiative and My Brother’s Keeper.
Islamic Community Center: The center is a faith-based, non-profit organization established more than 30 years ago to serve Tempe residents, Muslim and non-Muslim, who come from around the world.
The center serves as an ambassador for people who want to learn more about the Muslim religion, culture and etiquette. It provides tours. The center’s work in Tempe intersects with neighbors of every faith. In 2020, the center took a stand on social justice by attending rallies and meetings with Black Lives Matter groups and faith-based leaders.
Margot and Maddy McArdle: The McArdle sisters volunteer to help their schools become safer and more equitable. They are in middle school and high school and help facilitate after-school programming each week for youths experiencing social inequality.
The two take part in a podcast produced “The PeerPod,” by Peer Solutions, which discusses ending oppression, silence and normalized harm.
Danielle Nieto: Nieto works for Native American Connections at The Lodge, an emergency shelter for those experiencing homelessness and are at high risk for contracting COVID-19, putting her life at risk every day to serve those facing the toughest challenges. She serves on the Tempe Equity in Action Committee and is Peer Solutions’ 2020 Guts To Be Good overall winner for having the guts to speak up, lend a hand, be honest, be courteous and be respectful.
She also serves on the MAG Race Equity Leadership Team and Community Equity Consultant for Naturopaths Without Borders.
Project Humanities: Arizona State University’s Project Humanities is a multiple award-winning initiative that extends widely within and far beyond the four campuses of ASU. It invites people to see diversity, inclusion and equity through the lens of individual and shared humanity.
Project Humanities offers a virtual and real toolbox that promotes and celebrates compassion, integrity, forgiveness, kindness, empathy and self-reflection. From lectures with known celebrities and leaders to hackathons for social good and volunteering, this program is dedicated to showing the interconnectedness of humanity, justice and equality.
Jazmine Reyes: Reyes is among the strong voices behind Downtown Tempe Authority’s messages of equity and inclusion.
She has built diverse and inclusive marketing strategies for all of the authority’s campaigns, including one for social media that highlighted Black downtown business owners, and Project Love, which launched during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, and organized four murals celebrating Black artists and equality in downtown Tempe. She is working on Soul Food Sunday, a theme for a February 6th Street Market. She serves on the Emerging Leaders Committee for Tempe Community Action Agency.
In the past, she served underserved communities while working at A New Leaf. She was also a part of the Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps where she developed a six-month youth program targeted toward teens in low-income families.
Devynn Thurston: Thurston is involved in Arizona Department of Education’s Equitable and Inclusive Practices Advisory Council, working to create guidelines for the department regarding foster equitable and inclusive schools for LGBTQ students.
Since 2018, he has been a program member of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network Phoenix Shine Leadership program. He is the Tempe Mayor’s Youth Advisory Commissioner and President of Tempe High School’s Gender Sexuality Alliance, where he plans and runs weekly meetings and created a transgender support group.
He has refined a variety of leadership skills around communication by giving public and recorded speeches and presentations and being a voice for LGBTQ high school youth.
Kay Wright: Wright participates in projects that ensure that women of all socio-economic circumstances have feminine-hygiene items. She started Women4Women to distribute women’s hygiene and incontinence products to homeless, Native American and low-income women, who had no other way to get them. She and her members have distributed thousands of these items for years. In October alone, the organization distributed more than 1,400 products.
While her primary purpose at Women4Women is providing feminine hygiene to women, she also spends time with those she helps, to share a story or learn a name. She is truly loved by Tempe’s homeless community.