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SPRINGFIELD — Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services (MLKFS) has wrapped up an almost-year-long search for a new leader. After an extensive search campaign and interview process, Aieshya Jackson, chair of the board of directors of MLKFS, announced that Shannon Rudder will be the next president and CEO of the organization.

“The task we undertook upon Ronn Johnson’s passing was to find someone who shared our values as keepers of the dream while simultaneously having the exemplary skills and experience to build on Ronn’s success,” Jackson said. “We found that person in Shannon, who has spent her career putting her business skills and entrepreneurial spirit to work in service to those who need help the most.”

Rudder, who will join MLKFS on March 13, most recently served as deputy director of Teach Western Mass, a nonprofit organization working toward educational equity in partnership with area schools. She also served as executive director of Providence Ministries Inc., an organization supporting the needs of marginalized populations by addressing food insecurity, addiction recovery, housing, clothing, and workforce development. She earned her MBA and her BBA, the latter magna cum laude, from Medaille College.

“What I love about Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services is that it really takes into account all of the community members,” Rudder said. “I want to ensure that the legacy continues because it’s important and has been around for 45 years. It’s important that it continues because the needs continue.”

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SPRINGFIELD — The board of directors of Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services has elected attorney Rose Colon as vice president.

“We are thrilled to have Rose move into the role of vice president. With her legal background and many years of service in the Springfield area, she will continue to support our mission in being keepers of the dream,” board President Aieshya Jackson said.

Colon practices in the Probate & Family courts of Western Mass. for the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. Prior to that role, she was the first Latina assistant district attorney in Berkshire County. She is also an adjunct professor at Bay Path University in its Legal Studies & Criminal Justice Department.

Colon earned a bachelor’s degree in legal studies from Bay Path University in Longmeadow and her juris doctorate from Western New England University School of Law.

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SPRINGFIELD — The board of directors of Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services has elected Aieshya Jackson as president, and the organization announced that Karon Forde has been appointed director of Youth Programs.

“We are so excited to have Aieshya leading our organization as her management and financial skills are critical for our continued growth,” said Patricia Bernard, vice president of Operations and Finances. “Bringing Karon to Springfield is also exciting and a real plus for the children we serve.”

Jackson is a business manager for the Springfield Library Department and has more than 15 years of financial-services experience. She is a graduate of Bay Path University, where she earned a master’s degree in healthcare management. She also attended the Connecticut School of Finance and Management.

Forde had served as the Community Center director for the Police Athletic League in Brooklyn, N.Y. She has more than seven years of experience working directly with youth as well as serving as an administrator of after-school programs. She earned a bachelor’s degree in values, ethics, and social action from Allegheny College.

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SPRINGFIELD — Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services (MLKFS) announced that this year’s Social Justice Awards will honor the organization’s former President and CEO Ronn Johnson, who passed away in January. The organization also announced that the Justice Resource Institute has stepped forward as the first event sponsor.

“The Social Justice Awards generated the support every year that Ronn needed to help MLKFS continue to be keepers of the dream,” said Calvin Hill, chairman of the MLKFS board of directors. “Now it is an opportunity for the community and area organizations to honor Ronn’s work and help keep that dream alive.”

The 2022 Social Justice Awards will continue to be a virtual event this year and will take place Saturday, April 23 at 11 a.m. Michael Weeks, president and CEO of the Providers Council, will be the keynote speaker. The awards will honor individuals and organizations that met, if not exceeded, King’s challenge: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’”

This year’s honorees are Barbara Gresham (education), Bishop Bryant Robinson Jr. (lifetime achievement), Bishop Talbert Swan II (race relations), CMSS and Eileen McCaffery (arts and culture), Doris Harris (health advocacy), First Church of Christ in Longmeadow UCC (faith-based initiative), MassHire Springfield and Kevin Lynn (economic development), and Thomas Morrow and Julius Lewis (entrepreneurship).

Individuals and organizations interested in supporting Johnson’s work at MLKFS through sponsorship or a donation should contact Lenise Williams at (413) 736-3655 or [email protected], or visit mlkjrfamilyservices.org/donate.

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SPRINGFIELD — The board of directors of Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services has elected Aieshya Jackson as vice president and Darren James as treasurer.

“Aieshya and Darren have stepped up to take on more responsibility just when our organization needs it most,” said Calvin Hill, chair of Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services. “They bring critical skills to our leadership team and an integral part of our future.”

Jackson is a business manager for the city of Springfield Library Department and has more than 15 years of financial-services experience. She is a graduate of Bay Path University, where she earned a master’s degree in healthcare management. She also attended the Connecticut School of Finance and Management.

James is a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual and has more than eight years of financial-services and operations experience. He earned a bachelor’s degree from American International College with a concentration in communications and business.

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SPRINGFIELD — Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services Inc. (MLKFS) appointed Zaida Govan as vice president of Youth Services. She will direct all educational programming, including after-school, summer, and college-readiness programs.

“The needs of the youth in our community have increased greatly,” said Ronn Johnson, president and CEO of MLKFS. “Zaida will help us to carry on the vision of Dr. King and respond to those needs. While our core focus remains the Mason Square community, the need has grown, and the people we serve come from all neighborhoods, even beyond the borders of the city of Springfield.”

Govan is a licensed clinical social worker and an accomplished community organizer who has worked with the Mason Square Health Task Force and its Drug Free Communities efforts. Her community work also includes serving as a board member of Wellspring Cooperative Corp. and Wellspring Harvest Greenhouse, as well as a board member of the League of Women Voters of Northampton. She is president of the Indian Orchard Citizens Council and president of the Springfield Community Land Trust, whose mission is to bring permanent, affordable housing to Hampden County. She also started community-garden efforts in both the Indian Orchard and Mason Square neighborhoods.

Govan attended the University of South Carolina in Columbia and holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Springfield College, including a master’s degree in social work and human services.

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SPRINGFIELD — Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services Inc. (MLKFS) announced the addition of three new members to its board of directors.

“Our mission and services have expanded to meet in part the incredible needs of the community during this time of hardship,” said Calvin Hill, MLKFS board chair and vice president of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement for Springfield College. “Therefore, adding additional and talented hands to our leadership will assist us in fulfilling the words of Dr. King as we attempt to do more for others.”

The MLKFS Emergency Food Pantry now helps more than 500 people, and after-school and night-spot programs support literacy and academic achievement essential for the life success that disrupts the cycle of poverty. MLKFS also runs a historically black college-tour program. Funding for such socially focused programming continues to become increasingly limited at a time when needs are especially pressing.

At the regular meeting of the board on Jan. 21, the board voted unanimously to accept the three new nominees Rose Colon, John Garvey, and Dr. Allison Sullivan.

Colon is a criminal-defense and personal-injury attorney based in Springfield. She engages in all aspects of criminal-defense and civil personal-injury litigation. She earned her paralegal certificate from the American Bar Assoc., earned a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in legal studies at Bay Path University, and earned her juris doctorate at Western New England University.

Garvey is the founder of Garvey Communication Associates Inc., a Springfield-based digital public-relations and marketing agency. He is a graduate of Marquette University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences with honors, and of American International College, where he earned a master’s degree in organizational development with an emphasis on strategic planning. He is a volunteer at Wild Care Cape Cod, a former board member of Valley Venture Mentors, and a past mentor for the startup accelerators MassChallenge and SparkHolyoke/EforAll.

Sullivan is lead faculty for the Occupational Therapy doctorate program at American International College. As an occupational therapist and educator, she has dedicated her 27-year career to improving the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the lifespan, working in day-habilitation services, school-based occupational therapy, and residential settings. She is the chair of the MAOT Western Massachusetts Mental Health Special Interest Group, a certified group-exercise and yoga instructor, and the co-founder and leader of #OTalk2US, a Twitter chat for occupational therapists with tens of millions of views of tweets carrying this tag.

Sullivan earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Amherst College, a master’s degree in occupational therapy from Springfield College, and a doctorate in occupational therapy from Temple University. She currently volunteers as an advisory board member for Lighthouse and a board member and social media committee chair for Allen Cognitive Network, and serves on the human rights committee for Viability.

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SPRINGFIELD — A mural inspired by the death of George Floyd that will pay tribute to unarmed people of color killed by police, titled “Say Their Names,” is being painted on the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services building, located at 3 Rutland St. in Springfield.

In addition to the mural, there will be an adjacent area where members of the community are encouraged to share their own tributes and remembrances. The project is organized by Common Wealth Murals, organizer of Fresh Paint Springfield, and Rosemary Tracy Woods, executive director and chief curator of Art for the Soul Gallery. The mural is hosted by Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services of Springfield.

The mural was designed and is being painted by internationally known muralist and graffiti artist Wane One from New York City, with assistance from two additional muralists, Nero and Souls. Wane One painted the East Columbus Avenue parking garage during the Fresh Paint Springfield Mural Festival in 2019 and a mural for the Friends of the Homeless shelter on Worthington Street in Springfield.

The mural, which will include the phrase “Say Their Names,” will feature the names of the more than 60 unarmed people of color who have been killed by police in the U.S. in the past 12 months (from June 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020). The people whose names are included on the mural are those whom police reported as unarmed when killed. The names and demographics of those killed, as well as the circumstances of their death, were drawn from the research by Mapping Police Violence.

According to the project organizers, “we were inspired to create this mural by the death of George Floyd. We believe more must be done to prevent the excessive use of force by police, which disproportionately harms people of color. We hope this mural will create a space for public and communal mourning, inspiration, and conversation. We believe free expression and community conversation during a time of heightened tension increases the likelihood of peaceful and constructive action. We hope that this mural will help people heal, process emotions, gain new understanding, and inspire concerted effort to eliminate individual and systemic racism.”

Wane One has been an active and progressive participant in the New York City graffiti community for 36 years, and has painted more than 35 public murals in New York City and around the world. He has designed for hip-hop groups and artists like Gangstarr, Jeru the Damager, and Group Home, as well as brands such as Nike, Reebok, New Balance, and RYU.