Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tennessee Human Rights Day Celebration Acknowledges Heroes, Brings Awareness to Key Issues

The Tennessee Celebration of International Human Rights Day takes place each year in early December at the First Amendment Center.

The Tennessee Celebration of International Human Rights Day took place in Nashville at the First Amendment Center on December 6th, 2016.  At the focus of the celebration is the presentation of awards to human rights champions in three categories: Rising Advocate, Outstanding Service and Lifetime Achievement. Past recipients of these prestigious honors have included the Rev. Bill Barnes, Rev. James “Tex” Thomas, Rosetta Miller Perry, Father Joseph Breen, Avi Poster, Yuri Cunza, Remziya Suleyman and many more.

A committee of human rights organizations and nonprofits, including the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, Metro Human Relations Commission, United Nations Association, UNICEF, Tennessee Board of Regents, Amnesty International, Tennessee United for Human Rights, the Church of Scientology, Muslim Women’s Council and others, worked together to plan and organize the event.

This 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 this 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.

International Human Rights Day occurs every year to commemorate the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on Dec 10, 1948. The theme this year was “Hidden in our Midst: Child Trafficking in Tennessee,” and it is under this theme that experts brought new awareness to this issue. Those who participated in the public conversation included Jerry Redman, Co-Founder & CEO of Second Life of Chattanooga; Margie Quin, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations; Susan Watson, an attorney for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid; and Shelia Simpkins Mcclain, Director of Survivor Services for End Slavery Tennessee.

For more information on the event, to see photos or to watch videos of the awardees, visit  

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