Martin Luther King Jr. Day holds a special place in ArDeanna’s heart. Each year, her family gets up early to serve breakfast to marchers. Delicious smells of bacon, eggs, sausage and biscuits greet hungry marchers who quickly file into the 1,100 square foot home located squarely on the march route. A group of bikers, college students, kids and seniors enjoy a hearty breakfast together before making their way to the start of the march. For ArDeanna Hicks, a Senior Manager of Employee Development at CPS Energy, the March not only gives her an opportunity to celebrate the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader, but it also gives her a chance to honor Betty Lou Strait Applin, the woman she affectionately remembers as Nana. More than 20 years ago, Betty and her family started serving breakfast to marchers – a tradition that ArDeanna’s family proudly carries on today.
“Nana invited everyone with open arms into her home and wanted them to feel welcome,” said ArDeanna. “People would park their cars in front of the house, eat breakfast and take part in the march. She loved being in the kitchen and making sure everyone was served. She was the kind of person that would have given her last (possession) to somebody if they needed it.”
Serving others was a way of life for Betty. She made a career out of serving soldiers at the Ft. Sam Commissary and frequently invited them to dine with her family. Her household became known as the soldier’s home away from home. Betty often invited neighbors and strangers alike to her table. While serving up one of her “culinary miracles”, she would offer them words of encouragement. Along with actively serving at church and in the community, she made sure to work polling stations on Election Day.
“She always taught us to understand our rights and speak up for those who couldn’t,” said ArDeanna.
Betty proudly spoke about Dr. King, the great peacemaker, to younger generations in her family, including ArDeanna’s two children, Sydney and Marshall.
“Nana often talked to the kids about Dr. King to make sure they knew who he was and what he stood for,” she said. “As time passes along, his story can seem like a fairytale. Nana wanted to make sure they clearly understood his life and legacy.”
On Monday, ArDeanna and her family carried on the tradition for Betty who passed away in 2016. After serving breakfast with her children, uncles and aunts, ArDeanna joined her CPS Energy family for the march. The group of about 125 team members, family members and friends proudly walked with more than 300,000 marchers from our community – one of the largest marches in the nation. ArDeanna says she is always proud to be an active participant in MLK Day with both of her families. It’s something her Nana would be proud to see.
“Taking part in this every year is something that’s engrained in me,” she said. “This is not a day to be off. It’s a day to be on and commemorate the life of Martin Luther King Jr.”