The annual awards ceremony is a highlight of Martin Luther King Jr. month.
Each year during the monthlong Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, Dartmouth honors members of the Dartmouth and Upper Valley community who have contributed significantly to social justice, peace, civil rights, education, public health or environmental justice. This year's social justice awards were presented on Jan. 30, and the winners discussed their work in a panel discussion.
A founding member of the law firm Webster & Fredrickson, PLLC, Fredrickson has 43 years of experience in the fields of employment discrimination, labor, and civil rights litigation. He battled for over two decades to win the largest employment discrimination award in the history of the Civil Rights Act. The Hartman class action sex discrimination case against the Voice of America and USIA paid out over $590 million divided among 1,100 women, earning Fredrickson honors from Trial Lawyers for Public Justice and the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association. At Dartmouth, he teaches a summer course titled "Introduction to Law, Social Justice, and Trial Practice."
Having earned both an MD and a master's in clinical research, Solotaroff is president and CEO of Central City Concern, where she has worked since 2006. Located in Portland, Ore., CCC is an innovative organization serving adults and families who experience homelessness, poverty, and addiction. As a clinician, she cares for homeless people with persistent pain and substance use disorders, developing clinical and financial models to support integrated, seamless care for individuals with complex medical, behavioral, and social needs.
White is a former visiting associate professor of history and of African and African American studies and director of inclusion and academic engagement in Dartmouth's athletics department. White has authored two books: The Challenge of Blackness: The Institute of the Black World and Political Activism in the 1970s (2011) and Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Jake Gaither, Florida A&M, and the History of Black College Football (2019). His current project tells the story of a man who escaped a lynching in North Carolina by fleeing to Canada, which had an impact on the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill of 1922. He now teaches African American and Africana studies at the University of Kentucky.
Zhang earned her BA in geography and worked in Dartmouth's student affairs office for five years. She was also an organizer for EmpowHER, an employee resource network for women of color who are faculty or staff. In addition, she volunteered as an after-hours, crisis-line advocate at WISE, which provides domestic-violence crisis support, advocacy, and intervention in the Upper Valley. This inspired her to pursue a master's degree in social work through the University of New England. In 2017, Zhang began working as the programs director at LISTEN Community Services, a social services agency based in Lebanon, N.H., that is dedicated to helping meet the critical needs of Upper Valley individuals and families.
Conversations With Change Makers
The event in Filene Auditorium began with a performance by the Rockapellas, Dartmouth's all-female a cappella group, whose repertoire includes songs that carry messages of social awareness.
Evelynn Ellis, vice president for institutional diversity and equity, opened the awards ceremony with a personal story. She said it was a challenging year in her home state of Alabama because of the death of a popular and beloved black sheriff, "Big John" Williams, who was shot while responding to a complaint in a parking lot.
"I am about to present awards to four people who would have made 'Big John' Williams proud," Ellis said.
White did not attend, but Vince Wilson, an assistant director and class manager for the Dartmouth College Fund, read from White's written remarks. "My service to Dartmouth's black and brown communities was more rewarding than anything I could image," White wrote. "I have reminded students that leadership comes from service, and not a title or a position."
Accepting her award, Zhang used a metaphor to explain how social work relies on contributions from many people at all levels of an organization. "When you're in a chorus that's trying to hold a sustained note, singers take turns taking a breath. That's how they sustain the long sound. I would not be here without so many mentors and family members who have helped me keep going."
Rachel Solotaroff echoed that sentiment, adding that delivering medical care to people struggling with homelessness and addiction has taught her how to listen, and to find joy in helping others. "This may sound weird, but medical school at Dartmouth was one of the most joyous experiences I've had … compelling me to want wherever I work to be a place where lives are transformed and celebrated."
Finally, Fredrickson talked about the powerful influence of family and faith on his decision to represent people who encounter discrimination in the workplace.
"What inspires me is my clients," he said. "As Dr. Martin Luther King said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."