Mayor Greg Fischer today announced that Ish Burks is the 2013 recipient of Louisville Metro’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Award. Burks is a former Secretary of the Kentucky Justice Cabinet and a former commissioner of the Kentucky State Police. He is currently an assistant professor and academic coordinator of criminal justice at Jefferson Community and Technical College.
Fischer will present the award 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27 during the “Keepers of the Dream” community arts celebration dedicated to Dr. King at the Kentucky Center’s Whitney Hall, 501 W. Main St. The event is free and open to the public.
“Ish Burks is not only widely respected in the criminal justice and education fields, he has a reputation for directness, commitment and compassion in making this city and state a better place,” Fischer said.
“I accept the Freedom Award with a great sense of gratitude,” Burks said. “I am honored and humbled and would like to thank Mayor Fischer for this recognition.”
Retired from the Army, where he served during the Vietnam War and earned the rank of Colonel, Burks has a Master of Arts in criminology from City University of New York. He has been very involved in higher education. In addition to his current role at JCTC, he was previously a vice-president at Spalding University and an Executive-in-Residence at Bellarmine University.
Burks’ strong resume in policing and public safety led Fischer in 2011 to seek his expertise and service, first as interim police chief, then as interim chief of public safety, a position Burks left in late 2012 to return to JCTC.
Long active in the Louisville community, Burks has worked with the board of directors of the Louisville Ballet, African American Heritage Foundation, Home of the Innocents, Louisville Community Development Bank, Kentucky Veterans’ Trust Program and the West Louisville Boys and Girls Choirs. He served as a member of the Merger 2.0 Task Force appointed in 2011 by Fischer to examine the first decade of city-county consolidation.
“Ish is a great friend and a person I deeply respect,” said Duke University basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who met Burks when both men were serving in the military. “He has served his country and his community his whole life with integrity and commitment. We are all better as a result of Ish’s service.”
Norton Healthcare is the presenting sponsor of the Freedom Award. This year’s award is a blown glass design created by Ché Rhodes, associate professor, Head of Glass, University of Louisville Hite Art Institute.
“Norton Healthcare is honored to be associated with this annual program that recognizes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy and ongoing gift of inspiration,” said Sandra Brooks, MD, MBA, system vice president, Research and Prevention, Norton Healthcare. “We also salute this year’s Freedom Award winner, Ishmon F. Burks. He is truly deserving of this recognition for such a long and distinguished career and dedication to his community.”
The Freedom Award, first presented in 1987, recognizes citizens that have dedicated their lives to promoting justice, peace, freedom, non-violence, racial equality and civic activism. Previous winners include State Rep. Darryl Owens, Charlie Johnson, Merv Aubespin, Dr. Bernard Minnis, Ben Richmond, Raoul Cunningham, Georgia Davis Powers, Ed Hamilton, Lyman T. Johnson, Beverly Watts, Sam Watkins and Deborah Todd.
The Jan. 27 concert and community arts celebration is presented by the Kentucky Center ArtsReach Program, River City Drum Corp and Louisville Central Community Centers. The event, hosted by Christopher Truth B. Told Owens, will feature presentations by the River City Drum Corp with the La’Nita Rocknette Dancers, Gary Edjukated Rebel Brice, O’Dell Henderson, Calvin Ramirez, Will McBride, ArtsReach Dance Ensemble, ArtsReach Dance Studio from Chestnut Street YMCA, West Louisville Boys and Girls Choirs, Kenny Fresh, ArtsReach Violin Studio with guest artist Lewis Eichelberger, Tribute to the Photographic work of Aukram Burton with Joan Brannon & Sisters of the Sacred Drum, Mike Tolbert, Baba Kenyatta, Women of the Drum, Ase, and the UK Korean Percussion Ensemble, Spoken Word by Samuel Hawkins with the Crosby Middle School Super Tight Step Team, and dance by Louisville Central Community Center’s Trinity Edison & Irena Fletcher.
A pre-performance in the Kentucky Center lobby from 4-4:45 will feature: Peg Leg Pete Quartet, Kenny Fresh, Cole Goodrich, Derainge Barz, D-Twist, R’Shawnea, Marlesha Cooper, Megan Perkins and Toni Wheeler.
The program is followed by post-show entertainment in the lobby by the River City Drum Corp.