Tennessee celebrates International Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day honoree Thelma Harper with program organizer Brian Fesler.

Human Rights Day honoree Thelma Harper with program organizer Brian Fesler.

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. In Tennessee, the Human Rights Day celebration has become a time to reflect and look to the future. During the event, they honor those who have given a lifetime of service to making human rights a reality, those who have demonstrated outstanding service to forward human rights and those who are picking up the torch and carrying it forward.

Tennessee celebrated Human Rights Day on December 7, 2017 in Nashville at the John Seigenthaler Center, located at 1207 18th Ave South. The day began at 5:00pm with a reception and exhibits by human rights organizations. Then at 6:00pm, the presentations and awards began. Speakers discussed various human rights topics related to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Awards were presented for lifetime achievement and outstanding service in the field of human rights, along with recognition of rising advocates.

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 are Kayo Beshir, an undergraduate student at Middle Tennessee State University who has worked on and off campus to promote human rights; Pratik Dash, who has worked both with Women On Maintaining Education and Nutrition (WOMEN) and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC); and Madison White, a junior at Lipscomb University who has been actively involved in local pro bono legal clinics, and also volunteers her time with nonprofits such as Make a Wish Foundation, Second Harvest Food Bank and Free for Life International.

The award winners in the category of Outstanding Service are Jerry Redman, Co-Founder and CEO of Second Life Chattanooga which is an awareness and advocacy organization working to end human sex trafficking and Zulfat Suara, a strong advocate for minorities who is currently President Elect of the Tennessee Women Political Caucus and chair of the American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC).

Lifetime Achievement awards were presented to Thelma Harper, the first African-American woman State Senator of Tennessee who has a long history of service and Joey King, a Board Member for Veterans for Peace who has been active in several organizations to promote human rights, diversity and peace.

On October 24, 1945, in the aftermath of World War II, the United Nations came into being with the purpose of saving future generations from the devastation of international conflict.

United Nations representatives formally adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. The Declaration was drafted by representatives of all regions of the world and encompassed all legal traditions. It is the most universal human rights document in existence, delineating the thirty fundamental rights that form the basis for a democratic society.

Following this historic act, the Assembly called upon all Member Countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.”

Today, the Declaration is a living document that has been accepted as a contract between a government and its people throughout the world.
The program was co-sponsored by the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, the Metro Human Rights Commission, the United Nations Association; and Tennessee United for Human Rights. Ticket proceeds will help Tennessee Students attend a Model UN session.