Mayor Fischer announces three recipients for 2022 Keepers of the Dream Freedom Award
Williams Summers IV
Mayor Greg Fischer will present three community leaders – La Casita Center Executive Director Karina Barillas, Metro Council Liaison Wanda Mitchell-Smith and noted civic leader William Summers IV – with the prestigious Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Keepers of the Dream Freedom Award. The presentation will be at 6 p.m. Friday, June 17 at the inaugural Juneteenth Jubilee Celebration Gala at The Ali Center, 144 N. 6th St. This year’s theme is “Our Story, America’s Glory.”
“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a champion of nonviolent social change who envisioned a world where every person has the opportunity to realize their full human potential. Our city’s value of compassion is based on that vision. And there is much, much more work to be done,” the Mayor said. “And as we continue to work to realize that vision, it’s a great joy to take a moment to celebrate the outstanding civic leaders in our community who passionately push for social change. These award recipients are part of ‘our story, Louisville’s glory.’ Each of them has served tirelessly to make Louisville a fairer and more just city.”
La Casita Center Executive Director Karina Barillas is a native of Guatemala who arrived as a Fulbright scholar more than 25 years ago, escaping a childhood filled with poverty, domestic violence and sexual assault. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Louisville in English, psychology and education, and later, a master’s degree in education and counseling.
Barillas has used the trauma of her experience as fuel to fight injustice. Twenty years ago, when she was working at the Center for Women and Families, she recognized an urgent need for a centralized space in Louisville to foster the safety and well-being of Latina survivors of domestic violence. Barillas and her dedicated staff have built La Casita Center – “The Little Home” – on a solid foundation.
In late May 2020, La Casita Center was one of the first immigrant organizations in Kentucky to put out a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which some considered it “too radical.” Barillas responded unapologetically, “I believe that silence is complicity.”
That same year, Barillas and the center’s staff and volunteers assisted the Latinx community with unemployment applications and translated COVID-19 information. The center distributed essential items such as food to families.
Her outstanding work as executive director has been documented in local media outlets, as well as in the Washington Post and New York Times. During the 2022 Women’s Heritage Month, the Center for Women and Families honored Karina as a Woman of Distinction, for her 22 years of work with families victimized by domestic violence. That same month, Metro United Way and Louisville Metro’s Office for Women highlighted Karina as one of Louisville’s Impactful Women.
She is the proud mother of Ali and Fatimah, and loves to dance salsa, sing, garden and cook with her husband, Louis.
Metro Council Liaison Wanda Mitchell-Smith has a vast experience Kentucky politics. She served as Political Action Representative for AFSCME Council 62, starting as an organizer with AFSCME in 2001. There, her primary job responsibilities included promotion of legislative equality for better work conditions, pay equity, healthcare and job safety. She conducted research on current and past legislation/issues relevant to working families, assessed both the positive and negative impacts, and strategized with an international leadership team and made recommendations to regional management. She also organized and mobilized 7,000+ public employees throughout Kentucky.
As Deputy Chief of Staff for Lt. Gov. Stephen L. Henry, Mitchell-Smith represented Henry in policy decisions and negotiations related to education, health services and economic development within all levels of state government.
In Congress, Mitchell-Smith was a special assistant and community liaison to U.S. Rep. Mike Ward. In that capacity, she represented the Congressman in policy decisions and negotiations at all levels of government and advised the team on prevailing governmental and community-based issues.
She worked as a researcher on issues important to the minority community with a special emphasis on education, housing and family services. Mitchell-Smith communicated with representatives of the city, county, state and federal governments and assisted in the implementation of educational programs and civic projects that fostered partnerships within the community.
She later joined Louisville Metro Government as legislative aide to Councilwoman Barbara Sexton-Smith of Metro Council District 4 and in 2021 transitioned to her current position.
She has been married to Daryl A. Smith for 38 years, and they have a 31-year-old daughter who is a graduate from the University of Louisville with a master’s degree from the School of Arts and Sciences.
Williams E. Summers IV
William E. Summers IV has devoted his life to serving his hometown of Louisville. A few of his distinctions from a life of service include participating in the civil rights movement, working at his father’s radio station WLOU (The Original Soul of Louisville), becoming the first African American executive at Greater Louisville Inc., and serving in various roles in state and local government, including Deputy Mayor for over 20 years.
Helping the city of Louisville become an inclusive, vibrant place to live, work, and play has always been a top priority for Summers. He has been active on several boards and civic organizations, including the Kentucky Economic Development Partnership, the University of Louisville Board of Trustees, Central Bank of Jefferson County Board of Directors, the Louisville Urban League Board (chair), Big Brothers/Big Sisters Board (chair) and the Louisville Water Company, to name a few. Additionally, Summers served on the Kentucky Derby Festival Board from 1992-2001 and was its second African American chair in 2000. His father, the late William E. Summers III, was the first African American to chair the Kentucky Derby Festival.
Summers is also a proud veteran, having served in the United States Army. He has received many awards in honor of his many years of service, including the National Conference on Community & Justice Humanitarian Award, Louisville Urban League Lifetime Achievement Award, the Ottenheimer Award presented by the Jewish Community Center, and the Lyman T. Johnson Award from the Louisville Central Community Center.
In 2012, Simmons College of Kentucky presented Summers with an honorary doctorate of Humanities in honor of his many years of public service and leadership in Louisville.
Of all his accomplishments and community involvement over the years, Summers is most proud to be called husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He and his wife, Paulette, have been married for over 50 years. Summers and his wife remain active in their church and community.
About the Freedom Award
The Mayor’s Freedom Award, sponsored by Republic Bank and first presented in 1988, recognizes residents who have dedicated their lives to promoting justice, peace, freedom, non-violence, racial equality and civic activism. (See list of other previous winners below.) The recipients were presented an award sculpted and designed by students in the art department of DuPont Manual High School.
Traditionally bestowed in conjunction with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, this year - mindful of COVID-19 concerns – the Mayor will present the coveted Freedom Award as part of the city’s Juneteenth celebration. The inaugural gala will feature WAVE3 anchor Dawne Gee, a Juneteenth commissioner, as the emcee. Other performances will include a spoken word presentation by Hannah Drake and musical performances by Dr. Jerry Tolson Orchestra, Frankie Raymore and the Groovemasterz and Donna & The Atone Band.
For more information on how to purchase tickets for the Juneteenth gala, visit juneteenthlou.com.
PREVIOUS FREEDOM AWARD WINNERS:
- Lyman T. Johnson, 1988
- Rev. W. J. Hodge, 1989
- Former State Sen. Georgia Davis Powers, 1990
- Rev. William E. Summers III, 1991
- Rev. Thomas F. Moffett, 1992
- Father Patrick Delahanty, 1993
- Art Walters, 1994
- Sam Watkins, 1995
- Willie Gray, 1996
- Deborah Todd, 1997
- Dr. Kevin Cosby, 1998
- Rev. Charles E. Kirby, 2000
- Dr. Samuel Robinson, 2001
- Dr. J. Blaine Hudson, 2002
- Ed Hamilton, 2004
- Beverly Watts, 2005
- Raoul Cunningham, 2006
- Ben Richmond, 2007
- James O. Chatham, 2008
- Dr. Bernard Minnis, 2009
- Mervin Aubespin, 2010
- Charlie Johnson, 2011
- Darryl T. Owens, 2012
- Ishmon Burks, 2013
- Suzanne "Suzy" Post, 2014
- Ed White, 2015
- George Burney, 2016
- Manfred Reid, 2017
- Rev. Charles Elliott, 2018
- Diane Porter, 2019