John Parr, Westword co-founder Sandy Widener and their oldest daughter, Chase Parr, were killed in a car wreck in December 2007, a tragedy that dimmed some of Denver's brightest lights. In tribute to this exemplary family (the only survivor was younger daughter Katy), friends and colleagues created the Parr Widener Civic Leadership Award, administered annually through the Denver Foundation as part of its Community Leadership Awards Celebration.
See also: Remembering Sandy Widener
This year, that award went to Jamie Laurie, better known as Jonny 5, Flobots founder/singer and social activist. Laurie, a graduate of East High School who went on to Brown University, was back working at East when he met Sandy and John, who were volunteering with the A+ Angels mentoring program, and Laurie soon founded Flobots.org, now Youth on Record, to push the kind of civic engagement the couple advocated.
At the memorial service for Sandy, John and Chase, Flobots performed "Rise" -- and got everyone in the audience on their feet.
In accepting the award in their name, Laurie said, "The only way for me to make sense of this is to recognize that it's up to us to raise our voice to fill in where the loss exists, to create better communities."
And as part of that effort, Laurie and his fellow Flobots will launch the new No Enemies campaign with an original collaboration featuring the all-youth 303 Choir at 7 p.m. Sunday, November 16, at Capitol Heights Presbyterian Church, 1100 Fillmore Street. The concert will feature collaborative "remixes" of the Flobots' own songs as well as new interpretations of historical songs from social movements, including one with lyrics written by the late Dr. Vincent Harding, which will be sung in collaboration with Art Jones, founder of the Spirituals Project.
According to Laurie, No Enemies is an effort to create space for musicians, activists and community members to recognize music as a tactic for social change, and to examine, create, share, remix and adapt songs that can be used for rallies, marches, direct action and other forms of public witness. Admission is $10, but no one will be turned away; for more information, go to flobots.com.
The Parr/Widener award is a relatively recent addition to the Denver Foundation lineup. For almost two decades, the organization has presented the Community Leadership Awards to community members who make major contributions to improving life for people in metro Denver. Swanee Hunt, for whom the awards are now named, is a philanthropist, author and the former U.S. Ambassador to Austria. Today she lives in Massachusetts, but she returned to Denver -- where her philanthropy began with The Hunt Alternatives Fund -- to present this year's awards. Here are the additional winners and the Denver Foundation's description of the honors:
The 2014 Swanee Hunt Emerging Leader Award was given to Brittany Pyle. Brittany, a Colorado native, received her Bachelor of Science in Human Services and Nonprofit Organization Administration from Metropolitan State College of Denver. While in college, she served as the Lead Student Coordinator in developing the Metro State Food Bank, service that garnered her multiple student involvement and leadership awards. Brittany also worked at The Denver Foundation through the Nonprofit Internship Program providing administrative support to the team and to the internship program itself. After college Brittany served as an AmeriCorps VISTA for Horizons for Homeless Children in Massachusetts; there she managed 235 people who volunteered to play with homeless children living in shelters around the Northeast Region. Since returning to Colorado, She has worked for the National Stroke Association, and currently is at the American Heart Association where she is the Executive Assistant to the Regional Vice President. Brittany shared that she learned a lot to dispel her myths about leaders after reading about book given to her about servant leadership. "Leadership is about empathy and creating community. That's the kind of leader I want to be," Brittany stated.
Pam and Ricardo Martinez were recipients of the Swanee Hunt Individual Leadership Award. The couple, who are the founding members of Padres Unidos, met on a picket line for the United Farm Workers picket line almost forty years ago. Since then, they have been an indomitable team fighting for educational equity, immigrant rights, and student involvement in educational policy. Together, they are accomplishing a great deal. In addition, they have each accomplished significant goals on their own. Among many other accomplishments, Pam founded the first women's studies program in the country at San Diego State University, and advanced educational reforms to ensure that college preparation is a right for all students attending Denver Public Schools, regardless of their race, gender, or zip code. Ricardo recently guided students in rewriting the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between the Denver Public Schools and the Denver Police Department that contains language that clarifies and limits the role of police officers assigned to Denver schools. This new IGA has been recognized nationally as being one of the first to be initiated and negotiated by youth. "Building a movement for justice and democracy means removing obstacles in front of young people as they work to succeed," Ricardo shared. "Our work is not done."
Find more information on the awards and the Denver Foundation here.
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