Willimantic, Conn. – Kevin Booker Jr., Charles Chatterton and Courtney Callaway were named recipients of Eastern Connecticut State University’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards on Feb. 24. The awards were presented to the honorees on for their distinguished service in promoting King’s ideals.
Booker teaches in New London schools, where he also helps victims of sexual assault. He also facilitates leadership and diversity workshops, mentors, and speaks publicly throughout the United States. He praised Eastern in his speech saying, “The people that you’re looking at here, they embody Martin Luther King Jr. on so many levels. And I am blessed to have been around this community for so many years. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have the opportunity to be impacted by everyone here at Eastern.”
Booker shared a story of his childhood that he says changed his perspective from that day on. His father and he arrived at a gas station, and his father said, “Watch this. I’m going to give this young man $10. Look what he does with it.” The young man went to the store and got lunch meat and bread to bring home to his brothers and sisters. Booker’s father looked at his son and said, “Don’t forget. That’s what you have to do in the community, give back.” Booker said, “I took those words and I put them in my heart.”
Promoting physical activity as a professor of kinesiology and physical education at Eastern is a fraction of Chatterton’s impact on the community. In 2006, he created the initiative, “Taking Strides to Brake the Cycle of Poverty,” to promote poverty and hunger awareness. Chatterton ran four marathons in six months to raise funds for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
“When I look at the audience, what I see is all of us can make a positive difference,” stated Chatterton as he thanked Eastern and his family. “When we think about the Eastern community, we think of inclusiveness. We think of trying to make a difference in everyone’s life. At Eastern I’ve been very blessed for the opportunity to grow.” Chatterton has set many goals for himself, including a commitment to running a marathon for each million people living in poverty. He recently completed his 62nd marathon, far exceeding his initial goal of 46.
Callaway is a senior majoring in social work. A first-generation college student, she has recently been accepted into Boston College’s master’s degree in the Advanced Standing Clinical Social Work (Master of Social Work) program. Getting involved with the Women’s Center, the Intercultural Center, the Senior Class Committee and the Student Advisory Council are some of Callaway’s on-campus activities. She also has a passion for social justice issues and underrepresented communities, and spent time working for the Campus Activity Board where she helped plan inclusive events for the Eastern community.
One of Callaway’s nominators said, “Something amazing about Courtney is that she is personally committed to doing her part to make our world better. She realizes that the betterment of another generation depends on how we respond to the needs of those here now.” In her own remarks, Callaway said, “Being awarded for the work I’m most passionate about is such a crazy thing to me. No matter what obstacles you meet in life, keep going. I’ve learned so much at Eastern. I will take this knowledge and foundation of advocating for equality and justice everywhere I go.”
Robert Hill, professor of history at the University of California-Los Angeles, was the keynote speaker, and discussed the origin and development of the Harlem, NY-based Marcus Garvey Movement, documenting how it started in the West Indies. He also noted that many African American women and men from Jamaica were at the forefront of the movement, serving as vibrant leaders. Hill also explained that ethnic culture is more accurate than race in discussing the human experience and is at the crux of coalitions in the progressive Garvey Movement.