Parisi, Mayor Rhodes-Conway announce 2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award honorees

1983: The U.S. Senate votes 78-22 to approve a bill establishing a national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. The legislation, already approved two months earlier in the House of Representatives by a 338-90 vote, would be signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Nov. 2, 1983.
1983: The U.S. Senate votes 78-22 to approve a bill establishing a national holiday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. The legislation, already approved two months earlier in the House of Representatives by a 338-90 vote, would be signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on Nov. 2, 1983.

MADISON, Wis. — Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and Madison mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced this year’s recipients of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award on Thursday.

Ada Deer and Kenneth Cole have been announced as the recipients of the combined City-County Humanitarian Award honoring Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

They were selected by the City-County Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission. Deer will receive the Humanitarian Award from Dane County.

Cole will receive the Emerging Leaders Award from the city.According to a joint news release from Parisi and Rhodes-Conway, Deer grew up in poverty on the Menominee reservation before earning a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She went on to get a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University.Deer became a leader for a grassroots movement of the Menominee people that resulted in a historic reversal of unjust federal Indian policy and restored federal tribal recognition in 1971, according to the release.

The movement established a precedent that other tribes followed for their tribal restoration and empowered Indian tribes to achieve justice and assert their tribal sovereignty.

Ada also became the first female tribal chair in Menominee history before becoming the first American Indian woman to win the nomination of a major political party for Congress.

Cole was born in Los Angeles before coming to Madison for school at the UW.

According the release, “Some of the most notable work during Kenneth’s time on UW Madison’s campus involved the accomplishments of the UW-Blackout and Blindside campaigns, in which a slew of demands and initiatives aimed at bringing access, equity, and inclusion to socially and economically underrepresented students on campus were enacted.”

Cole works with the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, the Urban League of Greater Madison, Madison School & Community Recreation, and the Wisconsin Leadership Development Project—among other professional organizations.

“Both Ada and Kenneth honor the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through their efforts to serve our community and make it a better place for everyone,” Parisi said in a statement. “Whether it be Ada’s lifelong commitment to Native rights and education or Kenneth’s emerging leadership in youth development and community organizing, both have accomplished great things and lift our community up. Ada and Kenneth’s dedication to service make them excellent recipients of this award.”

The City and County will present the awards at the annual City-County Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance on Monday, Jan. 20, at the Overture Center Capitol Theater, 201 State Street, Madison.

The program will run from 6 to 8 p.m.