Whether you’re reading about fair housing, racial disparities or gender equality, these are all human rights issues. To bring increased awareness and education on human rights to the public, a celebration for Human Rights Day takes place each December in Nashville, Tenn.
On this day, Tennesseans gather to celebrate the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations, originally signed on Dec 10, 1948. It is always an event with a message of hope for the future, respect for the past, and looking at what it will take to change human rights abuses in the present.
“Human Rights Day means acknowledging leaders while encouraging others to take up the torch for the future,” says planning committee chair Rev. Brian Fesler, pastor of the Church of Scientology. The celebration has been tentatively set for December 7, 2017.
The celebration centers around the Human Rights Lifetime Achievement awards, the Rising Advocate Awards, and the Outstanding Service Award. Last year, Rising Advocate Awards were given to three individuals who have made great strides for human rights and show even greater promise for the future. They were Anna Carella, who has worked both locally and in other parts of the world to help others in need and most recently with Advocates for Women's and Kids' Equality (AWAKE); Justin Jones, a Fisk University senior who has already proven himself as a strong advocate for social justice and peace by organizing several events, marches and protests with the purpose to help others; and Mohamed Shukri-Hassan, who works with the Tennessee Immigrants and Refugee Rights Coalition and American Center for Outreach and was on the first Mayor’s New Americans Advisory Council.
The award winners in the category of Outstanding Service were Juan Canedo for his work on issues that affect the wellbeing of the Hispanic community and the community at large, with particular emphasis on empowering Hispanic immigrants; and Derri Smith, who is the Founder and Executive Director of End Slavery Tennessee.
The Lifetime Achievement award last year went to Dr. Charles Kimbrough, a longtime civil rights activist who established and organized NAACP chapters in four different cities across the South and served as President of the Nashville Branch, where he saw a surge in chapter membership, addressing civil rights issues within the local African American community.
The committee plans to feature many different human rights organizations during this year’s celebration, especially government agencies and non-profit organizations in Tennessee that have commitments to some part of the thirty rights as laid out in the UDHR. Organizations who wish to participate in the planning may contact the organizer through www.nashvillehumanrights.org.