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MLK Community Involvement Awards
February 12, 2008, Volume 54, No. 21

On January 23, the thirteenth annual Interfaith Commemoration of the Life of the Reverend
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took place in Bodek Lounge, Houston Hall, with a keynote address,
musical performances, and the presentation of the Community Involvement Awards.

MLK Awards

Award recipients: Brian Peterson, Crystal Lucas, Chad Lassiter, Rev. James Allen, and Lois Pharr.


Crystal M. Lucas, a second year MSW student, graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BA in political science and Africana studies in 2002. Prior to her graduation, she participated in the Semester at Sea Study Abroad program. It was on this global voyage that she discovered her passion for social justice and human rights. After graduating, she returned to her home town of Philadelphia where she worked for several years in various areas of social service including child welfare, welfare to work, and juvenile delinquency. Her experiences in the field, and a desire to pursue her career in social justice and community empowerment at a higher professional level, led to her pursuit of an MSW at Penn in September 2006. She was privileged to merge her education and experience this summer when she participated as a volunteer in the Feldman Initiative Project. After her graduation in May 2008, she hopes to join both the clinical and policy tools that she has obtained in this program, to build a career of standing with, working for, and serving those who are forgotten and marginalized by humanity.

Rev. James S. Allen considers himself blessed to have followed some of the outstanding preachers in the churches where he has served. He assisted the late Dr. Leon Sullivan in establishing the OIC in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was a student at the International Theological Center, and present at the installation of Dr. Ralph Abernathy in the West Hunter Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered the Installation Sermon. Rev. Allen has received many honors and awards, among them is the Outstanding Citizen’s Award, Delaware Valley Christians and Jews (1985) and the Distinguished Service Award from Congressman William H. Gray (1980). Rev. Allen still serves in leadership positions of the National Baptist Convention, USA Inc. He is the director of the Ministers Division of the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education of the NBC USA Inc.

Mrs. Lois Pharr began her career in the childcare profession over 20 years ago. She and others were employed by a church group to provide a daily childcare service to the community. Mrs. Pharr’s goal was to provide quality care and to teach infants, toddlers and pre-school children the necessary social and emotional developmental skills they need to further their life skills. Over the years as her enrollment increased she began efforts to expand her space to accommodate more children. With the assistance of her only child, Kim, she established a before- and after-school program for school-age children ages 5 through 12. Lois’ Learning Tree is an anchor for the community, providing an enriched academic environment to promote child development, creating jobs for neighborhood residents and offering support to the families of her center through education and monthly meetings.

Chad Dion Lassiter, SW ’01,is nationally recognized in the fields of American race relations and violence prevention among African American males. He has worked with resilient and vulnerable families, youth, and communities as they experience normal developmental transitions in challenging environments. Mr. Lassiter’s research interest attempts to contribute to a more informed analysis of the diverse ways that adolescents and families, especially people of color, cope with socioeconomic challenges and institutional racism. In May of 2004, Mr. Lassiter was named in Who’s Who Among African Americans 17th edition, along with such notables as Colin Powell and Michael Jordan. Mr. Lassiter is one of the co-founders and current president of the Black Men at Penn School of Social Work, Inc. which seeks to recruit black males into the profession of social work as well as providing anti-racism and violence prevention training to urban and suburban schools. He has worked on race, peace and poverty related issues both in Africa and Israel. Presently, he is an adjunct professor at Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice and a researcher at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

MLK Community Education Award In Honor of Dr. Judith Rodin

For outstanding contributions to the advancement of education and educational opportunities in West Philadelphia.

Born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Brian Peterson received his bachelors of science in engineering from Penn in 1993. He then began working as an IT support specialist in College Houses and Academic Services. Later he served as the Education Fellow in W.E.B. Du Bois College House, while completing his masters in secondary teaching from Penn’s Graduate School of Education. In 1999, Mr. Peterson co-founded the Ase Academy, an academic and cultural enrichment program in Philadelphia which works with secondary students on Saturdays during the school year, and has served as the organization’s executive director since 2003. He is the author of two novels, in addition to The African American Student’s Guide to Excellence in College, and the forthcoming Multicultural Student’s Guide to Excellence in College. Mr. Peterson is currently completing a Nonprofit Administration program in Penn’s Fels Institute of Government and pursuing his doctorate in Penn’s Graduate School of Education.

Almanac - February 12, 2008, Volume 54, No. 21