A longtime health educator who has worked tirelessly for racial justice and AIDS awareness has won this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Achievement Award from West Virginia University.
Lourdes Cottingham, a medical technologist and community health educator in WVU ’s Office of Student Affairs, received the award at WVU ’s annual Unity Breakfast held yesterday s morning (Jan. 17) in the Mountainlair ballrooms to honor the work of Dr. King.
In addition to working for racial and social justice in numerous local and state arenas, Cottingham was recognized for contributing considerable effort and time to educating the African American community on the AIDS -HIV epidemic.
AIn selecting Ms. Cottingham for this award,”said Hank Henderson, assistant director of the WVU Center for Black Culture and Research, Athe committee felt her work to further racial justice and AIDS awareness embodied the ideals of Dr. King. We are proud to recognize her exemplary work by presenting her with this prestigious award.”
WVU Law Professor Joyce McConnell was among those who nominated her.
She said, AMs. Cottingham exemplifies the qualities and goals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Her community involvement is vast and long-term.”
Originally from Cabinda, a former Portuguese nation that was folded into Angola against the consent of its people, Cottingham’s commitment to racial and social justice stem from her experience as an oppressed citizen and refugee, McConnell said.
AIt is important to understand the roots of her lifetime commitment to justice,”she said. AMs. Cottingham and her family were a part of the freedom struggle in Cabinda. As a result of her family’s role in this struggle, they moved from country to country as refugees. She knows first-hand about oppression.”
Since coming to West Virginia more than 20 years ago, McConnell said she has spent her life working for racial justice and equality.
AMs. Cottingham works to fulfill the dreams of justice and equality of Dr. King with every breath she takes. She is indefatigable in her pursuits,”she added. A I can think of no one more deserving of this achievement award.”
Among her accomplishments, McConnell credits Cottingham for starting a community group called Equality for All Americans following a cross burning in Monongalia County.
In response to a recent KKK march in a nearby West Virginia town, Cottingham launched another community group this fall called the Community Coalition for Social Justice, and currently serves as a member of its coordinating committee.
Cottingham’s social justice work also has focused extensively on educating the African American community on AIDS and HIV awareness.
She serves on the AIDS /HIV Education Committee of Morgantown’s Caritas House, a community-based educational and residential program for persons with AIDS or who are HIV positive.
Cottingham also is a member of the West Virginia Region 7 Community Planning Group for HIV /AIDS awareness, is a Red Cross instructor for HIV /AIDS training teaching, and belongs to the Council on African and African-American Affairs C an advisory body to the WVU Social Justice Office.
Among her accomplishments, Cottingham received a scholarship from the Rotary Foundation to be a Good Will Ambassador from Zaire. She also is a member of the National Conference of Black Lawyers.
Yesterday morning’s Unity Breakfast was only one of several activities held this past week on the WVU campus to commemorate Dr. King.
There also was a MLK birthday party in the Mountainlair Gluck Theatre featuring an Alpha Phi Alpha step show, a performance by WVU ’s Paul Robeson Mahalia Jackson Choir and the playing of Dr. King’s A I Have a Dream”speech. Cake and punch will be served.
Last week, MLK activities included a talk by the Rev. Dr. Vashti McKenzie, pastor of the historic Payne Memorial Church in Baltimore, Md., a Friday panel discussion on race and the justice system and a Saturday Resurrection City Community Service Project.
WVU was closed yesterday in observance of Dr. King’s birthday.