Members of the community gathered at the Howard Office Building in the Sonny West Conference Center to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Tennessee Human Rights Day on December 10. International Human Rights Day occurs every year to commemorate the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.
The day was celebrated with a panel discussion, music and the recognition of Human Rights Lifetime achievement and Human Rights Rising Advocates. Each honoree presented a pre-recorded segment stating their involvement in their area.
The panel discussion was about education, domestic violence and homelessness, stated as ‘Human Rights Issues Today,’ with panelists Pat Shea of the YWCA of Middle Tennessee discussing domestic violence; Tasha French Lemley with the Contributor Newspaper discussing homelessness and hunger; and Dr. Oscar Miller as the moderator.
The awardees for the Human Rights Lifetime achievement included: Rev. James ‘Tex’ Thomas, pastor of Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church (often referred to as the ‘mayor of Jefferson Street’ for his work on issues that affect north Nashville); Elliot Ozment, the founder and managing attorney at Ozment Law (a longtime advocate for civil and immigrant rights in Tennessee); and Carrie Gentry (an activist during the civil rights movement in Nashville, helping students get to sit-ins and bailing them out of jail after they were arrested).
The ‘Rising Advocate’ awards were presented to Gatluak Thach with the Nashville International Center for Empowerment and Stephanie Teatro with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.
Mary Pat Silveira who served in the United Nations for 30 years introduced the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and discussed the articles to help those attending have a better understanding of the document on which the day is based.
Music was provided by accomplished singer/songwriter Joie Scott, an international hit songwriter whose songs have been recorded by Shania Twain, Collin Raye, Lucie Diamond, Anne Murray and many others.
The committee organizing the event for Human Rights Day included: the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, Metro Human Relations Commission, United Nations Association, Amnesty International and the Church of Scientology.
Following this event, the Mayor’s Youth Council made a special presentation for Human Rights Day, speaking about what human rights means to them.