Rick Cardenas - Charlie Smith Award Winner

On November 5, 2004, the Access Press board, staff, and about 100 friends gathered to honor one of the pioneers in our disability community. Rick Cardenas, co-director of Advocating Change Together was this year’s recipient of the Charlie Smith Award.

Rick’s many years of political leadership include state-wide and national work with the Democratic Party; community organizing for Cesar Chavez on the Grape Boycott issue in support of seasonal agricultural workers; Constituent Advocate for Senator Paul Wellstone; and community organizing on various disability, accessibility, poverty, and Latino issues in Minnesota. His work with the National Center for Handicapped Transportation in the 1970s led to the creation of greater accessible public transportation in Minnesota. Through his consulting firm, Akcess Associates, Rick has fought for accessible architecture throughout the Twin Cities. All of Rick’s accomplishments would take the whole rest of this paper, so if you want to know more about Rick you will have to meet with him and get the whole story.

Although I did not have the fortune to meet Charlie Smith, I do believe that he is smiling knowing that the 2nd Annual Charlie Smith Award went to such a deserving individual. Because what I do know of Rick Cardenas, he is one of the driving forces for the disability community and I am glad to call him a friend.

As part of the Award Banquet, the owner and friends of Black Bear Crossing, who know Rick because of his leadership role in the community offered a “Burning Sage” Prayer for a healthy and prosperous future.