Local civil rights leaders to be honored at Urban Grace

The third annual MLK Junior Interfaith Service will be held at Urban Grace Church (902 Market St.) Jan. 18 at 2:30 p.m. The event is free and open to all ages. This year's Civil Rights Honor Roll will be presented on a large screen with a slide show narrative, and five new individuals will be inducted:

Tom Hilyard, a Tacoma native, helped form the Tacoma Citizens Affirmative Action Council and then, as a board member, worked to motivate local jurisdictions to ensure that the federal regulation on affirmative action was enforced. A longstanding member of the Black Collective, Hilyard has also served on the board of the Urban League and the NAACP where he is now first vice president. He was part of the group that formed the first ethnic studies cluster college in Washington State.

Ana Maria Garcia, a sister member of The Central American Sanctuary Committee at St. Leo's Church, was a founding member of We Are Your Sisters (WAYS), a local support group for women of color. She was the first Latina to serve on the Human Rights Commission of Tacoma. Over the years Garcia has taken homemade soup and collections of clothes to street corners where she knew people were cold and hungry. In 2004, Garcia was lauded with the Helen B. Stafford Courageous Woman Award of the Human Rights Commission for the City of Tacoma.

Dr. Joye Hardiman is noted for her years of service as a popular educator in the state with a focus on the South Sound. Hardiman's background includes her 17 years of leadership as executive director of the Evergreen State College, Tacoma. Hardiman has been a leader in providing education with a focus on African American and African culture as a way of advancing and celebrating black life. She has served as a core facilitator and faculty for the Washington Center for Improvement of Undergraduate Education\'s Community College Minority Student Success Project, and has been an active participant and supporter of the work of the Race and Pedagogy Initiative.

Maiselle Bridges, along with her husband Al and her three daughters, were on the front lines of the Indian fishing rights struggles of the late 60's-early 70's leading up to the Boldt Decision. Later, in the 80's, Bridges started the Wa-He-Lut school (named after her grandson, himself the namesake of the famed "right hand man" to Chief Leschi) at Frank's Landing and she and both her living daughters remain on the school's board today. Wa-He-Lut is a state-aligned and accredited school with 120 students, K-8, from many native tribes who travel from as far as Skokomish, Squaxin, and McCleary for a quality education that includes their native history and culture.

Pastor Ron Vignec is a significant voice in the Tacoma fight for civil rights. Recognizing that in order to have advancement one must become a part of the solution, Vignec left his secure job at Pacific Lutheran University and immersed himself in working toward helping the voiceless to be heard in Tacoma. Understanding that for civil rights to be achieved there must be a transfer of power, Vignec moved his church into the Salishan neighborhood and his board of deacons reflects the multicultural location. A well-known advocate, he continues making a case for the need to have new faces (not just white, middle class, male faces) represented in our city government, public schools and churches. Vignec has repeatedly attended City Council and Tacoma School Board meetings, and has encouraged his own church denomination to do so also. In his relationship with Lawrence Stone, Vignec helped launch the Big Homie Program. Creating change by investing in people, Vignec participates in a weekly roundtable intentionally equipping a younger generation to be more fully engaged and informed about civil rights.

This event is being organized by The Conversation with sponsorship from Associated Ministries of Tacoma and Urban Grace Church. For more information, call Kristi Nebel at (253) 573-1504.

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