International Human Rights Day celebrated in Tennessee

International Human Rights Day Lifetime Honorees Dr. Blondell Strong Kimbrough and King Hollands. (photo by Cass Teague)

International Human Rights Day occurs every year to commemorate the ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations, some seventy years ago, on Dec 10, 1948. In Tennessee, the Human Rights Day celebration has become a time to reflect and look to the future. During the annual 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 11, 2018 in Nashville with a moving and memorable event at the John Seigenthaler Center, located at 1207 18th Ave South. The theme for 2018 was chosen to align with the United Nations’ theme and is ‘Born Free & Equal? The Timeline of Justice in Nashville.’

The day began at 5:00pm with a reception with tasty Mexican foods and treats 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 with video segments, along with recognition of rising advocates.

This year, Rising Advocate Awards were given to three individuals and an organization who have made great strides for human rights and show even greater promise for the future. They are Anne Barnett & Odessa Kelly, both with STAND UP Nashville, who were instrumental in making sure the ‘Do Better Bill’ passed earlier this year; Fayo Abadula, who co-founded Oromo Youth of Nashville, a mentorship group for the Oromo youth and anyone from the African Diaspora interested in pursuing a college degree; and the Community Oversight Now coalition which recently successfully got Amendment 1 passed which will create a Community Oversight Board for the police in Nashville, and has advocated for social justice and civil rights.

The award winners in the category of Outstanding Service are Dawn Deaner, who has served unselfishly as Nashville’s Executive Public Defender and stood strong against a criminal justice system fraught with injustice; and Tom Negri who has served on nearly 20 boards and action committees including the YWCA and Conexion Americas as well as taking a leading role on Nashville for All of Us, the initiative to defeat the ‘English Only’ bill.

Lifetime Achievement awards were presented to King Hollands, who fought for civil rights as a student of Fisk University during the Nashville sit-ins; and Dr. Blondell Strong Kimbrough, a lifelong advocate for civil rights and justice.

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, UNICEF, Amnesty International, Tennessee United for Human Rights, the Church of Scientology, and others, who work together each year to plan the event.