Tennessee Human Rights Day Celebration Acknowledges Heroes

The Tennessee Celebration of International Human Rights Day, held each year in December at the First Amendment Center, raises awareness on crucial human rights issues.

The Tennessee Celebration of International Human Rights Day December 6 at the First Amendment Center of Nashville presented awards to human rights champions in three categories: Rising Advocate, Outstanding Service and Lifetime Achievement.

International Human Rights Day commemorates the United Nations ratification December 10, 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Beverly Watts, Executive Director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, was master of ceremonies of the event.

The theme of this year’s program was “Hidden in our Midst: Child Trafficking in Tennessee.” A panel of experts addressing the issue included Jerry Redman, Co-founder and CEO of Second Life of Chattanooga; Margie Quin, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations; Susan Watson, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) attorney; and Shelia Simpkins Mcclain, Director of Survivor Services for End Slavery Tennessee.

Those awarded for their human rights advocacy included:

Rising Advocate Awards

  • Anna Carella, who has worked both locally and in other parts of the world to help others in need, most recently with Advocates for Women's and Kids' Equality (AWAKE).
  • Justin Jones, a Fisk University senior, who has already proven himself a strong advocate for social justice and peace by organizing several events, marches and protests to help others.
  • Mohamed Shukri-Hassan, who works with the Tennessee Immigrants and Refugee Rights Coalition and American Center for Outreach and served on the Mayor’s New Americans Advisory Council.

Outstanding Service Awards

  • Juan Canedo, who advocates for the Hispanic community, especially empowering Hispanic immigrants.
  • Derri Smith, founder and Executive Director of End Slavery Tennessee.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Charles Kimbrough, a longtime civil rights activist, established and organized NAACP chapters in four cities across the South and served as president of the Nashville Branch.

A committee of human rights organizations and nonprofits planned and organized the event, 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 and Muslim Women’s Council.

Rev. Brian Fesler of the Church of Scientology Nashville delivered the program’s closing prayer and the Nashville chapter of United for Human Rights, a human rights education initiative supported by the Church of Scientology, provided award-winning educational materials for children and adults.

The Scientology religion was founded by author and philosopher L. Ron Hubbard. The first Church of Scientology was formed in Los Angeles in 1954 and the religion has expanded to more than 11,000 Churches, Missions and affiliated groups, with millions of members in 167 countries.

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