BY STEPHANIE COSBY, News Writer
Professor Georgina Hickey and Sister Mary Ellen Howard were both honored at last Thursday’s 34th Annual Susan B. Anthony Awards, held in Fairlane Center South. The awards recognize people from the campus and the Metro Detroit community that exude dedication, service, political agitation, and community involvement much like Susan B. Anthony’s on behalf of women.
Georgina Hickey received the Susan B. Anthony Campus Award for her decades of social activism, research, and teaching. Professor Hickey is an Associate Professor of History and the current Chair of the Department of Social Sciences. She has been with UM-Dearborn for the past 11 years.
Professor Hickey recounted her participation in a Martin Luther King Jr. memorial march in Georgia in 1987, during which her desire to create social change was stirred when a young white child spit at the procession out of hatred.
“History seemed much more alive and real and meaningful and urgent than it ever had before,” she recalled. “And moments such as mine where one starts to understand that inequity abounds, that people are often not treated fairly, and that the ugly parts of our history are not necessarily past, are important sparks for individuals to start questioning the world around them.”
Professor Hickey spoke of leadership as a “team sport.” Among tens of thousands of other people standing up for social justice that day, she recalled, “I was nervous, but never afraid. I felt empowered, rather than helpless in my own anger because I knew I was not alone.”
Sister Mary Ellen Howard received the Susan B. Anthony Community Award for her fight to bring health care to the uninsured and to change health care policy. Sister Mary Ellen runs the Cabrini Clinic in Southwest Detroit, the oldest free health care clinic in the country. Over 100 health care volunteers serve between 100 and 150 uninsured Detroiters each week.
“Their numbers are growing, and their options are limited,” she said of the people they treat. “Many of them tell us they would be dead if it were not for the clinic.”
Sister Mary Ellen recognizes the importance of providing such services, but like Susan B. Anthony, she feels that structural change must happen in order to solve the problem.
“Susan understood the importance of systemic change. Charity is important, but it will never be enough,” she told the crowd. “We need to change unjust systems. It didn’t take me long after coming to Cabrini Clinic to figure out that free clinics were not the answer. The more I expanded the services at Cabrini Clinic, the longer our line got outside the door. Clearly, the answer is fixing our broken health care system.”
She urged those in attendance to follow their passions for social justice while acknowledging the sometimes harsh reality of this kind of work. “Whether your passion is women’s rights, immigration reform, world peace, literacy, housing, hunger, the environment… whatever it is, follow it. Give your life to that passion… Working for social justice is not a popularity contest. We are called to speak the truth, even though no one wants to hear it. We must be ready to risk, even though there is a price to be paid.”
Chancellor Daniel Little spoke at the beginning of the evening as well to highlight UM-Dearborn’s impact on the surrounding Metro Detroit community, its fight for social justice, and its efforts of inclusion. He attributed such gains to the strong individual staff, faculty, students, and community members involved with the University.
“UM-D has a very long history of moving forward, of progress, of caring about social justice, of caring about equality, of caring about gender equality, racial equality, [and] religious acceptance. The phrase inclusion is so right for our campus,” said Little.