Cultural Leadership’s Troublemaker of the Best Kind Awards

Cultural Leadership’s Holly Ingraham, Erin Grossmann, Chris Pulphus, Karen Kalish, award recipients Susan Talve and Traci Blackmon, and CRC’s Randy Fleisher. 

Erin Grossmann, Junior, Marquette High School

To most, “troublemaker” elicits a negative response associated with mischief and shenanigans. So what could a “troublemaker of the best kind” possibly mean, and why is there an award honoring that moniker?

Coined by Karen Kalish, “troublemakers of the best kind” are members of the community whose leadership and life passion address critical social issues and generate positive community change. Previous winners of the Cultural Leadership Troublemaker of the Best Kind Award include Dr. Donald Suggs of The St. Louis American, Sharon Harvey Davis, the vice president of diversity at Ameren, and Richard Teitelman of the Supreme Court of Missouri. This year, two clergy members, Rev. Traci Blackmon and Rabbi Susan Talve were honored. The ceremony was held at Nine Network on December 2.

In addition to receiving the Troublemaker of The Best Kind award, Blackmon was named a member of Ebony’s 2015 Power 100. Coincidentally, that awards ceremony was held in California the same night as this event. Blackmon chose to attend the Troublemaker Award ceremony because “instead of being somewhere where they don’t really know me, or what I do, I’m at this for my community”; she posted on her Facebook page: “LOVE the photos from LA. LOVE even more that I’m saying I love the photos from LA, instead of saying I love the photos from STL. The young people last night affirmed that I got this one right.”

Rabbi Randy Fleisher of Central Reform Congregation opened the ceremony with a speech commending the winners for their social justice work. Members of Cultural Leadership Class 11 presented Talve and Blackmon with their awards. Following the winners’ speeches, a panel of prominent clergy women including Rev. Dr. Dietra Baker of Libertarian Christian Church, Rabbi Andrea Goldstein of Congregation Shaare Emeth, and Rev. Dr. Deborah Krause of Eden Theological Seminary discussed their work, moderated by Denise Lieberman of the Advancement Project.

Questions ranged from defining moments throughout their work to the influence of religion in their involvement. Lieberman shared her personal answers to the questions as well, including an anecdote about her work in altering legislation as an affirmation of her passion for social justice.

Zoey Fleisher, a member of Cultural Leadership Class 11, was inspired by the panel. “The [panel’s] conversation was centered around relationships, cross-cultural and cross-generational. I was inspired by the way the women found strength in each other, and that together they knew how to grow justice by sustaining their relationships,” she said.

The fact that both winners and all members of the panel were women resonated with Zoey as well. “Women are really big parts of social justice work and they, especially clergy women, are often put on the sidelines. It was very interesting and cool to listen to their perspective,” she said.


Anat Cohen at The Sheldon