La Crosse’s Viterbo University hosts MLK community celebration

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — People packed the Viterbo University Fine Arts Center to honor Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr and the people doing his work today.

Guest speaker Andre E Johnson is an associate professor at the University of Memphis and a pastor at an inner-city church built upon servant leadership. Johnson told the crowd it’s important to celebrate doctor king’s life and to honor his legacy by working as a community to solve the issues we still face today. “We need to address race and racism. And we need to address issues of poverty and unemployment. These are issues that are still with us today,” explains Johnson.

Monday’s celebration included music and poetry and honored two La Crosse area community members working to eliminate the oppression of all people.

2023 Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Award
The MLK, Jr. Leadership Award was established in 2009 with the purpose of recognizing an individual who demonstrates leadership in and commitment to building community,
enhancing diversity, and working for justice. The 2023 MLK, Jr. Leadership Award was presented to Bridget Todd-Robbins. Bridget is a leader in youth advocacy and has served the La Crosse Community for 25 years. She is currently the Youth System of Care Administrator and works to address the disproportionate number of racially diverse youth being referred to the criminal justice system. Her relationship-based approach to this work has led to the project’s success. Bridget also facilitates the Southside Moms United group and leads collaborative efforts across local youth-serving agencies. Bridget’s work is rooted in building connections, compassion, and a love for this community. She takes on difficult conversations and
changes minds, one at a time. Bridget has a Master’s Degree from UW-La Crosse, where she also taught for 6 years. Prior to her current position, she worked 12 years supervising
community corrections programs where her passion for social justice and advocacy began.

2022 Lynda Blackmon Lowery High School Leadership Award
Established in 2018, the purpose of the Lynda Blackmon Lowery Youth Leadership Award is to recognize a student in 9th or 10th grade who has shown commitment to building community, enhancing diversity, and working for justice. The 2023 Lynda Blackmon Lowery Youth Leadership Award winner is Na’ziah Mclaurin. Na’Ziah is a 15-year-old sophomore at Logan High School. Her family moved to Wisconsin from Louisiana in 2021. Her parents raised her to be a leader and taught her the importance of giving back, telling her to never be afraid of the unknown. She is a girl who takes the unknown and explores it, a girl who makes a difference in the world and puts her all into everything she does with a smile on her face. While in middle school in Louisiana, she led a blanket drive. Since moving to La Crosse, Na’Ziah has focused not just on being a student but also on making the world a better place. She is using her own money to support a fellow student in need. Prior to the 2022 election, she called residents in La Crosse, urging them to vote. She is a member of LIT, a student-led organization that fights systems of racism and oppression at the high school level. She works with the principal at Logan to address racist actions and policies. She recently testified at a local school board meeting, asking them to fund a program to aid them in employing more Black educators and other educators of color. In a recent article published in the La Crosse Tribune, she urged the school
district to fund restorative justice, as well as more counselors, social service workers, and teachers. She is also a part of Ujima Circles, a facilitated youth program for small groups of Black students at the secondary level to create a safe space for youth to gain confidence, knowledge, and skills around identity, racial trauma, advocacy, communication, mental
health, and relationship development. She uses the skills that she learns in Ujima Circles to serve as a mentor to students at Northside Elementary. Na’Ziah is truly dedicated to making her local community and the world a better place for all. Na’Ziah is committed to fighting for social and racial justice in her community.