Monday, May 11, 2015
St. Louis Frontenac Hilton
These awards honor the heroism of individuals who transcend acts of hate and find the moral courage to become leaders and healers.
Jake and Jeff Wheat, fraternal twins from St Louis, were taken by their abusive father to the Dominican Republic to work in his garbage recycling business. He forced them to work night and day in an unventilated 110-degree room with vermin coming out of the trash. Unschooled and malnourished, they escaped to the American Embassy. Months later, they were flown to St Louis and placed in a foster home by Angels’ Arms, the foundation that works to keep siblings together in foster care. They have survived and thrived, two years behind their classmates. Any thoughts of violence or revenge have been replaced by acts of leadership and healing others.
Morgan Bradley graduated from North County Technical High School planning to be a journalist. When Michael Brown was shot, Morgan put on her HateBrakers t-shirt and joined the march in Ferguson. She was interviewed by nearly every national news network–but her hatebraking ideas got edited out of each national news report. The good news was this: within a month, she became a regular on the ongoing KETC-TV “Stay Tuned“ panel. And she took HateBrakers’ “Meet a Hero, Be a Hero: HateBraking 101” classroom instructional program to her old high school, North Tech. Now a number of the students want to be hatebrakers like Morgan.
Theresa Bradley, Morgan’s single mom, found that after Michael Brown was killed, Morgan and many friends and neighbors felt hopeless. Theresa, in order to bring hope back to her community, is creating a major project to help bring dignity and self respect to the Ferguson area. She is developing a mall, Unity Plaza where local businesses will support the community. The non-profit firm will own the mall and will funnel profits back to the community. Young people will learn retailing and professional leadership from volunteers.Their first tenant will be an Upscale-Resale Shop.
Alex Schneider, deaf since birth, was taunted and teased by fellow students and scouts, at times with a teacher’s blessing. His parents–who live in California but have roots in St Louis–intervened and enrolled him in another school where he was treated kindly by students and teachers alike. His self-confidence grew rapidly and he worked to become an Eagle Scout, a remarkable achievement. His Eagle project was the building and installation of benches in a grove of trees at the school, a safe and nurturing, inclusive environment. He’s now thriving academically and professionally and he takes pleasure in sharing his story of moving on after bullying.
ALYSSA SHANK was twelve when she defended a classmate who was being bullied and then became a target of physical bullying herself. The experience was devastating and left her barely able to get out of bed. She was home-schooled until her parents learned about Logos School’s success with challenged teens. In this warm and skilled environment, she was able to overcome her fears and help others. While at Logos, Alyssa produced a powerful music video starring students and faculty.
SCOTT BONNER was abused by his stepfather and bullied because he was the poorest child at school. Despite this, thirty-some years later, a month into the job as director of the Ferguson Library, he became an on-the-spot HateBraker. The day Michael Brown was shot and killed around the corner from the library, many neighbors were stopped in their tracks by fear. Many businesses boarded up their windows and the Board of Education delayed the start of school. Scott kept the library open and safe. “That’s what a library is for,” he says. Teachers and students held classes there and, when the crowds got too big, Scott found safe places to expand. “Maybe I learned to think fast when I was young,” he says modestly.
PAT MCKISSACK grew up in the Fifties, all too familiar with the pains of prejudice and racism. Her havens were her grandmother’s front porch and the public library where she discovered her love for books. This inspiration led her and her late husband Fred, to write and publish over 100 books for children of all races. She has won countless national and international awards for her writing and has been
granted the Coretta Scott King Award for her courage and determination and an honorary doctorate from Webster University.