By Anna Deason
Photos from Brooklyn Johnson
This year's Keeper of the Dream awardees stand next to John Legend, who gave a special performance at the ceremony. Brooklyn Johnson stands on the far right.
This year, Brooklyn Johnson (12) was one of five individuals who received this prestigious award. This award recognizes Johnson’s dedication to the Memphis community through founding her own non-profit organization, Empower Memphis, and her organizing a low-cost, non-profit day camp for kids earlier this year.
Johnson recognized the need for affordable day camp options in the days between the end of the school year in May and the start of other day camps in June, and Empower Memphis even offered scholarships for campers who would otherwise not be able to afford the cost of camp. According to Johnson, just under half of the campers were able to attend free of cost.
Johnson found out mid-summer that a family friend had nominated her for the Keeper of the Dream Award.
In September, she was asked to fill out an application, and after a few weeks, she was told that she had won.
“It means a lot to win the ‘junior’ version of the Freedom Award,” Johnson said. “I never would’ve thought that the work I’ve done would be even comparable to those who’ve won the actual award, and it feels nice for the hard work I’ve done to finally be recognized.”
Every year since 1991, the National Civil Rights Museum has presented the Freedom Award to recognize three outstanding public figures for their efforts toward the advancement of civil and human rights. Among past recipients are Oprah Winfrey, the Dalai Lama, Rosa Parks, B.B. King and several other renowned figures, including this year’s awardees John Legend, Hafsat Abiola and Gloria Steinem.
Empower Memphis and the Keeper of the Dream Award are evidence of Johnson’s impressive work ethic and devotion to the communities around her.
Johnson concluded, “Winning the award was one thing, but being at the student forum in front of everyone (my family, friends from St. Mary’s, friends from other schools) made me realize how much of a big deal the award actually is.”
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