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Student Peace Laureates

2019

Aylen Candela Mercado
Rhodes College

Aylen Mercado is a Clarence Day Scholar with a double-major in Urban Studies and Latin American and Latinx Studies. At Rhodes, she leads initiatives centering diversity and inclusion by organizing peaceful demonstrations and facilitating spaces for dialogue to strengthen community understanding of underrepresented experiences. She draws from her background as a grassroots community organizer to engage the college community in conversations which address systemic inequity at the local and global level. In 2016, in response to heightened attacks on marginalized communities, Mercado collaborated with students across Memphis to create the Fed Up Student Union, a collegiate group founded by women of color and queer women. She also volunteers and organizes with community members at Desayuno con Libros, one of two free breakfast and literacy programs in the city, to promote community empowerment through art and literacy. She regularly writes for “The Rant,” a column in The Memphis Flyer, and speaks on social and economic justice — including an address she delivered at the MLK50 commemoration at the National Civil Rights Museum in 2018.

2018

Kevyanna Rawls
University of Memphis

Kevyanna Rawls was a junior at the University of Memphis in 2018, double-majoring in English and African American Studies with double minors in Sociology and Spanis. Kevyanna served as the vice president of the Student Government Association (SGA), where she advocated for more inclusive legislation that welcomes students from various cultures, ethnicities, and races. During her term, Kevyanna was able to implement a diversity and inclusion committee within SGA’s legislative branch, orchestrate and lead the University’s sexual assault awareness and prevention programs, and work with administrators to facilitate conversations with students regarding sexual assault and freedom of speech. Kevyanna was also voted to serve as SGA President for the 18-19 academic year. In addition to her involvement with SGA, Kevyanna had the opportunity to oversee an Alternative Spring Break Trip to Atlanta to impact the lives of over 700 people through various service activities. She was also a Truman Scholar finalist, Phi Kappa Phi and Omicron Delta Kappa inductee, and served on the Strategic Planning Committee for the University of Memphis.

2017

Justin Davis
Rhodes College

A St. Louis, MO native, Justin Davis was a senior at Rhodes College in 2017, where he double-majored in English and Greek & Roman Studies. As an underclassman, he volunteered at Refugee Empowerment Program and spent a year in leadership of a college access program for high school students. In 2015, he began working at Mid-South Peace & Justice Center, and wrote a report that summer outlining the negative social impacts of the Memphis trolleys. Justin continued serving the Center as a community organizer for the Memphis Bus Riders Union (MBRU), a grassroots organization that advocates for social and economic justice in the city's public transit system. In 2016, he was elected Secretary, and helped lobby the City of Memphis to increase bus funding by $7.5 million, the largest such increase in several years. As an MBRU member, he spoke to local and regional press, classes at Rhodes and Memphis Theological Seminary, and appeared on panels about transit and environmental justice. As a student, Justin was inducted into the Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society for English, and Eta Sigma Phi Honor Society for Classical Studies. He spoke on a Rhodes panel with Dr. Angela Davis, renowned activist and scholar.

2016

Damou Traore
LeMoyne-Owen College

Son of Dissa Sacko and Mamady Traore, Damou is originally from Guinea. In 2011, he arrived in Atlanta, GA, where he attended and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School, Senior Academy. After graduation, he moved to Memphis, TN to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science at LeMoyne-Owen College. He was a member of various campus organizations and served in numerous leadership positions, including Mr. LeMoyne-Owen 2016. His initiatives have welcomed an array of state and city officials and political activists as keynote speakers to LeMoyne-Owen's campus in an effort to highlight the importance of civic engagement and to increase the number of students participating in the country’s democratic system and craft a generation of “civic scholars,” especially among young African Americans.

2015

Taylor Flake
Christian Brothers University

Taylor Derielle Flake was a sophomore history major at Christian Brothers University in 2015. Taylor organized the founding of CBU’s Collegiate Chapter of the NAACP during her first year of college. CBU still stands as the first and only LaSallian University in the world to have its own Collegiate Chapter of the NAACP. Taylor is passionate about solving social justice issues and implementing long-lasting change and this passion is evident through her leadership in the NAACP. Through programs like the Juvenile Justice Summit, NAACP Reads, and the Black Lives Matter Campaign, Christian Brothers University’s Collegiate Chapter of the NAACP has worked tirelessly under the leadership of Ms. Flake to create programs and initiatives that challenge CBU and the Memphis community to face the issues in our community and work together to solve them.

2014

Ayele Akibulan
LeMoyne-Owen College

Ayele Akibulan is a 1988 honors graduate from Hamilton High School. As a student at LeMoyne-Owen College, he served as Vice–President of Alpha Kappa Mu National Honor Society (Memphis Chapter), and was selected to Who’s Who Among Students and All–American Scholars (2011–2014), and maintained 3.9 GPA. For the previous 14 years, he and his friends and family had been feeding the homeless at the corner of Poplar and High Street in the downtown Memphis area. They prepared hot, home-cooked meals and served the less fortunate every other Sunday. He also worked with at-risk youth, including current and former gang members, to help redirect their paths through a “Scared Straight” program, which hoped to deter bad behavior. As a result of their efforts, they received the Special Congressional Recognition Award for outstanding and invaluable service to the community from Harold Ford Jr.; the Mayoral Special Recognition Award for outstanding and momentous service to the community from Dr. Willie Herenton; and the K97 Peace Achievers Award.

2013

Franklin Dale Stewart Dakin
Rhodes College

Frankie and his family have lived in the Millington community since the mid-1990s. At Millington High School, he served as both captain of the football team and Student Government President. He also became heavily involved with BRIDGES, a youth service and outreach program with a 90-year history in Memphis. When considering college, Frankie said the choice was between West Point and Rhodes College.“The tipping point was when I was selected to participate in a service scholarship program at Rhodes, called the Bonner Scholarship,” he wrote. “The Bonner Program gave me the opportunity to dedicate my college years to the Memphis and Greater Memphis Community. In August of 2010, as a college freshman, I immediately consumed myself in the BRIDGES organization. I started as an intern in Curriculum Development, helped develop the pilot program BRIDGES Change, and then served as one of the first intern coordinators of that program. This service opened my eyes to the potential change that young people could make in their communities.” In May 2012, at the age of 19, Frankie left his role at BRIDGES to mount a campaign for Millington alderman. After a summer of fundraising and door to door campaigning, he became the first teenager elected alderman in the city’s history, making him the youngest elected official in Tennessee.

2012

Samantha Sol Bownes
Christian Brothers University

Samantha Sol Bownes attended Ridgeway High School, where she was a mentor in the Big Brother Big Sister program and helped organize a blood drive. During her junior year at Christian Brothers University, a documentary by the non-profit humanitarian group Invisible Children inspired Samantha to become involved in humanitarian work. She was the founder and president of Visible Campus, a CBU student group that collected books for schools in Uganda. As the chairperson of the CBU chapter of Beta Beta Beta, a national biology honor society, she organized the annual Bowlathon for Uganda, a benefit for the Ugandan non-profit organization Hope North, and helped form a new program to encourage first- and second-year students involved in community service and humanitarian work. For her accomplishments, CBU honored her as a Lasallian Fellow. In the Memphis community, she was the local manager of the small, grassroots, non-profit group Arudo Yat, which sold jewelry, handmade by Ugandans, to fund schooling and medical expenses of children in Uganda. She also performed much volunteer work for the Regional Medical Center at Memphis Trauma Department.

2011

Kioni Hawkins Logan
LeMoyne-Owen College

Kioni Hawkins Logan, a Memphis native, grew up in the Westwood area of Memphis and attended Hamilton High School. She began studies in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Pre-Law at LeMoyne-Owen College in 2008. Recognizing that societal issues in impoverished neighborhoods contributed to criminal behavior, she sought to deepen her understanding of these issues by participating in community and mentoring programs for teenaged victims of abuse. She assumed a leadership role at the Cummings Street Missionary Baptist Church, helping to distribute food to the community's homeless and poor, and also helped organize tutoring programs for illiterate children and adults and workshops for single parents. At LeMoyne-Owen College, she was a member of the Alpha Upsilon Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and presided as chair of its Social Action Committee and co-chaired its Community Service Committee. As part of the schools Community Partnership Program, she assisted Memphis area officials to determine crime risk areas.

2010

Jennifer Nicole Armstrong
University of Memphis

As president of the Student Activities Council at the University of Memphis, Jenn Armstrong almost single-handedly orchestrated The Writing on the Wall Project. This display and event sought to raise awareness of the walls we build between us and the hurtful and hateful words we use that tear us apart as a society. Her research, presentation, and passion sold University administrators on supporting such a controversial program. Her tenacious efforts with seven different campus departments and 15 student organizations, logistical meetings with campus officials, and two full months buying, organizing, transporting, and distributing supplies brought the project to fruition. Serving as the official spokesperson, Jenn produced a video, utilized social media to promote the undertaking, and garnered significant coverage among area news outlets. The project had an enormous impact on students, staff, faculty, and the entire Memphis community. Additionally, Jenn organized large groups of students to help her with park clean-up projects in inner-city neighborhoods. She volunteered to work with senior citizens at the Orange Mound Community Center and spearheaded the Emerging Leader class project that served the Lester Community Center.

2009

Anthony Siracusa
Rhodes College

Anthony Siracusa founded Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop at First Congregational United Church of Christ in Memphis in June 2002. Since then, the shop has grown in its ability to serve the need for affordable bicycles and provide mechanical education to many area residents. In 2005, he was asked to serve on Memphis' Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, now an official body of the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) that works with city engineers to develop projects to increase the safety of bicyclists in Memphis. As a student at Rhodes College, Anthony received numerous awards: The Jane Donaldson Kepple Best First Year Essay Prize; The Robert G. Patterson Award in Religious Studies; honors for a paper on the Rev. James Morris Lawson Jr. during the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies; The Jane Donaldson Kepple Best Scholarly Essay Prize; induction into the Phi Alpha Theta Honor Society in History; and induction into the Omicron Delta Kappa National Honor Society, an honor awarded to the top three percent of the student body. Anthony is a native Memphian, he played in local bands Bury the Living and Pezz, and he wrote a monthly column about bicycling entitled "LifeCycles" for The Commercial Appeal.

2008

Ceylon Mooney
Christian Brothers University

Ceylon Mooney studied mathematics and religion at Christian Brothers University and received his Bachelor of Arts degree tin 2008. An accomplished musician and human rights activist, Ceylon has toured the United States, Canada, and Europe consistently speaking out against war and sanctions. He helped form the Humanitarian Action Collective and served as a coordinator of Voices in the Wilderness, and on the board of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center. In 2001, he traveled to Iraq twice, in violation of U.S.-led economic sanctions, and spent three weeks in Baghdad and Basra living among ordinary Iraqi families. In December 2004, Ceylon made his first trip to Israel and Palestine to witness first-hand the plight of refugees and conditions in the mid-east region.

2007

Rev. André Johnson
University of Memphis

Rev. André Johnson was a student in the Department of Communications at the University of Memphis in 2007, where he was completing his doctoral dissertation in African-American rhetoric. He was also pastor of Gifts of Life Ministries, a non-denominational church in midtown Memphis. Rev. Johnson was involved with a variety of peace and justice issues, including the Living Wage Campaign, working with inner city youth on conflict resolution, participating in local peace walks, and supporting peace education events at area schools.

2006

Laura Dallas
Rhodes College

Laura Dallas was active for four years in hunger and homeless programs in Memphis, directing the student-operated Souper Contact program. For the two years prior to her award, she focused on the Memphis Living Wage Campaign, interning and volunteering with the Mid-South Interfaith Network. She interned with the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington, DC. Laura was also a frequent participant in Servant Leadership. She was the elected moderator of the Kinney Program at Rhodes, facilitating student leaders that mobilize volunteers and interns campus-wide to serve weekly in local churches, non-profits, and community organizations. Additionally, she was a campus organizer with the College Democrats and the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center.