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Hudson, Brown, DeSimone honored with MLK Justice Awards at St. Bonaventure ​

May 26, 2021

Three members of the St. Bonaventure University community have been honored with Martin Luther King Jr. Justice Awards.

The awards, which were handed out for the first time in 2020, are designed to honor faculty, staff and students who are leaders of social justice, committed to action, and inspire action in others. 

Honorees must also embody the deeply Franciscan definition of justice, honoring the dignity that is due each individual. Dr. King was committed to not only racial equity, but justice for the poor and other marginalized populations.

Akim HudsonThe 2021 MLK Justice Award student winner is Akim Hudson, a psychology major who just completed his sophomore year at SBU.

Of Hudson, one nominator said: “Not only does Akim embody the ideal of non-violence and social justice, he also helps others understand this path. He embodies all of the positive qualities of a leader who is peaceful, thoughtful, and kind, while willing to educate and illuminate others about his experience along with the history of Black Americans without making people feel intimidated or insecure.”

Hudson is also an asset to his home community in Geneva, New York, where he has his own podcast and co-hosts and moderates webinars and film viewings for a group called Community Education for Transformation in Geneva, which he co-founded. 

Hudson co-created the People’s Peaceful Protest, a group that holds marches, rallies, and public speeches at city council meetings while allying with other social justice groups in the community. The People’s Peaceful Protest helped lead the city council to create a police accountability board and to create new legislation to decrease conflicts between citizens and police. 

“Akim’s actions are similar to the Dr. King’s: He is committed to peace, but not afraid to lead and speak truth to power,” a nominator said.

Chris BrownThe 2021 MLK Award staff winner is Chris Brown, executive director of the Student Success Center and SBU’s Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP).

“For as long as he’s worked here, Chris has led our campus on a path to truly understanding and living the values espoused by Dr. King. He goes beyond the call to ensure our campus is continuing efforts for diversity, equity, and inclusion,” a nominator said. “He is a role model for our campus and the greater community.”

All of the Student Success Center programs are integral to St. Bonaventure students and “Chris ensures all students feel welcomed and at home on our campus.”

In his oversight of HEOP, which provides up to five years of scholarships and mentoring to students from diverse backgrounds, Brown helps bring students to campus who otherwise may not be able to attend SBU. 

Brown also plays an integral role in developing the curriculum for SBU 101 and SBU 102, required freshman courses that help educate our students about diversity, equity and inclusion. He has served as the advisor of Spectrum, the student LGBTQIA+ at SBU and has long been an advocate, voice and supporter of LGBTQIA+ students, faculty and staff. 

Brown is also a member of Olean’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committee examining municipal policies and procedures, and researching ways to do outreach and development in the Olean community. 

kimberly-desimoneThe 2021 MLK Justice Award faculty winner is Dr. Kimberly DeSimone, associate professor in the Jandoli School of Communication and director of SBU’s master’s program in strategic leadership.

In 2020, President Dennis DePerro named DeSimone co-chair, along with Dr. Matrecia James, of SBU’s Presidential Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

“Kimberly is a passionate and active leader of diversity, equity and inclusion at SBU,” a nominator said. “As both a professor and a member of our community, she works tirelessly to make our campus a more just and inclusive institution.”

DeSimone’s scholarship focuses on women in leadership and builds on her teaching and service. 

Beyond campus, DeSimone is an advocate for children with special needs including neurological differences such as autism. She has won numerous honors and awards for her DEI work in her home community of Buffalo. 

DeSimone has a firsthand appreciation for what diversity can mean to an academic institution: She earned her bachelor’s degree through HEOP at Niagara University.

“Now, in her position as a professor, she seeks to mentor our HEOP students so they know anything is possible for their futures,” a nominator said. “She is the ideal recipient of this award for her leadership and her belief in standing up for the dignity of all human beings, just like Dr. King.”

About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University is a community committed to transforming the lives of our students inside and outside the classroom, inspiring in them a lifelong commitment to service and citizenship. In 2020, St. Bonaventure was named the #2 regional university value in New York and #3 in the North by U.S. News and World Report.