Madison Harness has been described by others as an “untiring advocate for justice.”
That’s because the senior at Visitation Academy isn’t afraid to speak the truth in love with others. As president of the school’s Peace and Justice Club, Madison sees her role as supporting dialogue on a variety of topics, including protests following the death of an Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab improperly; issues that affect young people in the local community, such as substance abuse; and gender and racial justice issues.
“I am outspoken and will never let anyone walk all over me, or others for that matter, especially when it comes to topics like racial injustice,” she said. “I am not afraid to speak up and speak out about what’s going on. My outspokenness forces people to either learn more about it or hide — and more people choose to learn about it.”
Madison was nominated by her school for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Model of Justice Award. She is among 21 teens from Catholic parishes and high schools in the archdiocese who will be honored with the award Sunday, Jan. 15, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. The awards ceremony is a highlight of the 47th annual Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice, which commemorates King’s birth and legacy. The Mass and awards ceremony is organized by the St. Charles Lwanga Center, the archdiocesan Office for Black Catholic Ministries.
Madison said her vision for continuing Dr. King’s legacy includes education. Thinking of several family members, including her father, who have served as educators, she said “you have to educate the masses before you do anything else.” Educating others, especially young people on issues such as racial justice, is also important. “It’s educating youth that not only was segregation a thing, but it didn’t happen that long ago. And how can we change our society?”
To that end, Madison plans to pursue a degree in international business economics when she heads off the Louisiana State University in the fall. Through that path, she hopes to help people of color to create sustainable generational wealth, which is said is an area in need of development.
“As a Black person, when you think about generational wealth, that’s not usually something that is applied to people of color,” she said. “That’s a big problem. The wealth disparity, you can literally see it when you get to the city. It’s getting people to see your grandparents were living during segregation — this was not that long ago. People of color are still affected by a lack of change that has happened in our community.”
Outside of her school community, Madison participated in “Changemakers: Global Leadership Institute,” a two-week program St. Louis to develop leadership and collaborative skills, foster engagement with civic leaders and gain a deeper understanding of local issues and challenges through the lens of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. Through that program, she met Arrey Obenson, president and CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis; visited Old North St. Louis to learn more about affordable housing efforts there; and met a business owner on Cherokee Street, who spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the Latino community.
At Visitation Academy, Madison also was involved with the middle school’s Diversity Study, in which students learned about diversity topics.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Model of Justice honorees
Marissa Fischer, All Saints Parish in St. Peters
Max Cammarata, Immaculate Conception Parish in Dardenne Prairie
Taniyah Morrow, Bishop DuBourg High School
Dijon Askew, Cardinal Ritter College Prep
Isiah Shepherd, Chaminade College Preparatory School
Joshua Molina, Christian Brothers College High School
Camila Torres, Cor Jesu Academy
Andrew Knott, Duchesne High School
Olivia Eaker, Incarnate Word Academy
Honorah Brozio, Nerinx Hall
Saniya Bryant, Notre Dame High School
Brooke Elston, Rosati-Kain High School
Charlene Dale, St. Dominic High School
John Masson, St. John Vianney High School
Judith Vazquez-Perez, St. Joseph’s Academy
Jadin Redmond, St. Louis Priory
Fredrick Laux, St. Louis University High
Matthew Flowers, St. Mary’s High School
Michaela Eimer, St. Pius X High School
Amelia Raible, Ursuline Academy
Kristen Drury, Valle Catholic High School
Seraphia Weingart, Villa Duchesne
Madison Harness, Visitation Academy
Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice
The 47th annual Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice will be celebrated at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Msgr. Dennis Stehly will be the main celebrant, and Father Arthur Cavitt of the St. Charles Lwanga Center will be the homilist. The Mass commemorates the birth and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It will be livestreamed at cathedralstl.org.