“This is an award that is given to the person that really reflects the values, beliefs and the actions of Martin Luther King Jr. and that person is somebody who resides right here in Dane County,” Corinda Rainey-Moore, chair of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award Commission, tells Madison365. “We know there are folks in our community who are doing outstanding work and this award is given to that individual that carries out that work.”
The deadline for nominations to be submitted for the 2021 City-County Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards have been extended – one week – to Friday, Dec. 11, 4:30 p.m. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award is presented annually to the person or persons who have demonstrated incredible leadership and volunteerism in the Madison area.
“Specifically, we want people who have made contributions in the areas of promoting peace, understanding, and improving communication and cooperation between diverse populations in Dane County,” says Carrie Braxton, manager of Equal Employment Opportunity for Dane County’s Tamara D. Grigsby Office for Equity and Inclusion. “They have demonstrated leadership and volunteerism like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself.”
Members of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award Commission will independently rank the nominees and results will be compared and award recipients will be chosen collectively by Commission members. Rainey-Moore has been on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award Commission for about 6 years.
“The good thing about it is that this award decision is not made by one person; it’s made by the committee,” she says. “So we review the nominations individually and then we come together as a group to talk about that and our collective nominations.”
The person that you nominate for the MLK award does not necessarily have to be well-known.
“This award is not just about folks who are in the limelight that we all know about – and those people are certainly worth nominating, as well – but it is also includes folks who are working behind the scenes that we may not see or hear about every day,” Rainey-Moore says. “Those people are also very deserving of an award like the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award. We really want those behind-the-scenes folks to be nominated, too.”
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award Commission comes to a decision and pushes the candidate forward to the mayor and the county executive who have the final say on the awardees.
The adult awards, one for the city and one for the county, are awarded to people who have lived in the Dane County area for at least 5 years.
“We have had some great names over the years who have won this award. Some really incredible names,” Braxton says.
On top of the adult awards, there is also an “emerging leader” award presented to young people ages 18-25 and the youth leader award for children ages 13-18.
“For the youth awards, we are looking for young people who have demonstrated various principles for at least two years or more and have shown visible and continuing leadership in Dane County in areas of education, religions, civil rights, community or social/civic service,” Braxton says. “They currently can’t be on the commission or have received the award before.”
The committee is looking for the same criteria for “emerging leaders” awards who have demonstrated the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for at least three years or more.
“We have two awards for the younger people because we want them to know that the work that they do also matters,” Rainey Moore says. “We didn’t want young folks to feel like they had to compete with somebody who has been doing work for 50 years.”
Recipients of these prestigious community awards will be celebrated at the City-County Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration which will more than likely be a virtual celebration.
“We haven’t got official acknowledgment yet, but we know that it will be over the MLK Holiday,” Braxton says. “It’s always on the third Monday in January, which will be Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. It is such a huge function every year that it would be hard to limit it as an in-person event. We are not quite sure what will happen yet because of COVID-19, but we have time to figure that out.”
Traditionally, the Annual Madison and Dane County Martin Luther King Holiday Observance is a fun event with the MLK choir, national speakers, music and performances and, of course, the awarding of the MLK Humanitarian awards, which begin with the nominations.
“We really want people to know that they have an extra week to nominate somebody for the award this year,” Braxton says. “This is a great award. It’s very interesting to hear about the backgrounds of the applicants and the nominees and then the person that actually wins … that’s just awesome. It’s just so wonderful to be a part of this.”
For more information about the MLK Humanitarian Award or to nominate a community member, click here.