What the upLIFTing Awards Means to Me

By LIFT on April 1, 2014

Categories: First Person Perspective

My friends and family have been asking about the purpose behind the upLIFTing Awards. I tell them: yes, it raised funds to support LIFT-Boston’s work, and yes, it introduced people to what we do, but the upLIFTing Awards meant something more to me.

Ever since the event on March 4, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the word “dignity” means.

Marie St. Fleur, recipient of the Community Award, stood on the stage and declared, “Because you stand with LIFT, you have recognized the dignity of so many people in the City of Boston.”

If you Google the word dignity, the first definition you’ll find is “the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.” So dignity means you’ve done something to earn honor or respect, right?

That inaccurate definition is what Boston community members experience at other social service agencies when they don’t have the right paperwork. That’s what they’re told when they fall behind on rent and are evicted. People who fall on tough times are treated as though they aren’t worthy of honor or respect.

At LIFT, we know that isn’t true. We know that dignity is innate, that we are to be valued no matter our income, our education, or achievements. We all have shaky ground moments that do not make us any less worthy of honor and respect.

The upLIFTing Awards was a celebration of dignity. We honored three individuals who represent humanity at its best, who demonstrate that dignity is an innate right to be valued.

Michael Brown, CEO and Co-Founder of City Year, was awarded the Legacy Award. The room was full of his family, friends and co-workers who were there to celebrate not his accomplishments, but his character, his deep-rooted values, visionary leadership and dedication to social justice. The award recognized someone who has spent his life recognizing the dignity of students in Boston and all across the country. You can learn more about Michael by watching the video below.

Marie St. Fleur, CEO of Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children and former Massachusetts State Representative, has worked tirelessly throughout her career as an advocate on behalf of children and families. She was one of LIFT-Boston’s first supporters and played a key role in bringing LIFT to the Roxbury neighborhood. Marie gets it. She gets that people have lost the basic respect for dignity and she is fighting to bring it back.

Anaivis Hernandez was awarded the Commitment Award by Mayor Marty Walsh who said she is “a shining example of the values of LIFT-Boston and the true spirit of Boston.” Anaivis is a LIFT-Boston member who since coming to LIFT has secured stable housing, found full-time work, and has enrolled in college. All she needed was someone to restore her sense of value. After receiving the award she said, “The biggest help I received from [my advocate] is that she believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself.”

The upLIFTing Awards is a tribute to people we believe in, and a tribute to people who believe in LIFT. But the upLIFTing Awards is so much more. It recognizes dignity. It restores dignity. And it spreads dignity.