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NEA Honors America’s Human and Civil Rights Heroes

The National Education Association honored thirteen of America’s human and civil rights heroes at its annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner, July 1, 2012, in Washington, DC at the DC Convention Center. In addition to celebrating some of the nation’s leading civil and human rights activists, the ceremony commemorated the 1966 National Education Association-American Teachers Association merger and serves as a time of renewal while renewing a commitment to the social justice struggle that lies ahead.

“We celebrate our civil rights heroes, both past and present, because the struggle for social justice continues and by holding up these heroes we inspire the next generation,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “The people we honor at NEA’s Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner, whether they are widely-acclaimed or unsung, motivate us to purposeful and principled action by providing a vision of what the world could be with cooperation and understanding.”

John Robert Fetters
Social Studies Teacher, Mount Vernon Public Schools; Mount Vernon, Ohio

NEA’s Applegate-Dorros Peace and International Understanding Award will be presented to John Robert “Rob” Fetters, whose activities in education contribute to international understanding and motivate youth to work for world peace. Fetters’ home has served as an international hub for students and teachers from across the world for two decades. Teachers from Japan and college professors from Kenya, all guests in Fetters’ home, interacted with and taught students from the Mount Vernon areaÑexposing the students enrolled in Mount Vernon, Ohio public schools to worldly experiences, culture and art.

Jerry Gore
Professor (retired), Morehead State University; Maysville, Ky.

Jerry Gore’s unfettered commitment to expand the understanding of African American heritage by linking the past with the present, has earned him NEA’s Carter G. Woodson Memorial Award. Gore established an Underground Railroad Museum called Freedom Time, where he unearthed much of the railroad’s history in Maysville, Ky. The museum, through its Freedom Time Tours, has had a major impact on students who have only read about the Underground Railroad. Students can retrace the path to freedom for human justice and dignity, and explore the secret hiding places and trails used by enslaved Africans and conductors of the Underground Railroad.

Mary Ann Pacheco
Professor, Rio Hondo Community College; Whittier, Calif.

Following in the famous footsteps of CŽsar Ch‡vez, Mary Ann Pacheco is a long-time advocate for improving the status of labor and the lives of workers, earning her NEA’s CŽsar Ch‡vez Acci—n y Compromiso Human and Civil Rights Award. Pacheco is a staunch advocate of the DREAM Act. She has extended her passion and activism to fighting for the collective bargaining rights of higher education faculty members. She has spoken forcefully for academic freedom and union rights whenever and wherever they are threatened.

Stewart Kwoh
President and Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC); Los Angeles, Calif.

This year’s NEA Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award will be awarded to Stewart Kwoh for his work in education and his commitment to equal opportunities for Asians and Pacific Islanders. Kwoh has worked tirelessly for the inclusion of Chinese history, culture, language, as well as Chinese American history, in the Los Angeles public school system. Moreover, Kwoh has fought against stereotypes by combining muted diplomacy with steely determination to end discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Rosalinda Carre—n-Altamirano
Bilingual/Multicultural/Migrant Education Department facilitator, Las Cruces Public Schools; Las Cruces, N.M.

Rosalinda Carre—n-Altamirano is a high-octane, multi-tasking activist and leader. She has been a powerful and persistent advocate for bilingual education and educators for three years. She is the kind of educator George I. S‡nchez had in mind when he predicted that the Spanish language would one day be considered an assetÑnot a deficitÑby educators. CarreoŽn-Altamirano’s passionate commitment to bilingual education make her the perfect recipient for this year’s honoree of the George I. Sanchez Memorial Award.

Dream of Eagles
Intertribal organization (501c3); Omaha, Neb.

The Leo Reano Memorial Award will be presented to Dreams of Eagles for the intertribal organization’s work in preserving the tribal customs, oral traditions, language and history of Native Americans and Alaska Natives. The group has been instrumental in organizing cultural activities and classes to assist Native people in maintaining their cultural tradition. Over the past seven years, Dream of Eagles has helped to expose more than 28,000 4th grade students to Native American arts, crafts, traditions, lifestyles, and history.

Reverend Doctor Ralph David Abernathy
Posthumously; Atlanta, Ga.

Jailed 17 times, alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Reverend Abernathy’s church and home were bombed. Yet, despite the violence and injustice inflicted upon him, the Rev. Dr. Abernathy was steadfast in his quest to achieve fairness and freedoms through nonviolence. In honor of his peaceable philosophy and techniques, the Rev. Dr. Abernathy will be posthumously honored with NEA’s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Award.

Theresa Bwanya Kashale
English Teacher, Hawthorne Elementary School; Sioux Falls, S.D.

A refugee from the war-torn Congo, Theresa Bwanya Kashale not only transforms lives through teaching, but also saves lives. When she is not raising money for her orphanage in the Congo or teaching in the classroom or studying for another degree, Kashale is helping refugees in Sioux Falls, especially the women who learn from Kashale’s self-determination. Kashale will be honored with NEA’s Mary Hatwood Futrell Award for her international work and commitment to improving the lives of women.

Paul Hernandez, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Central Michigan University; Mount Pleasant, Mich.

Before he earned a Ph.D. in Sociology, before his bachelor’s degree, before his associate degree from a community college, Paul Hernandez was an "at-risk" K-12 studentÑat risk of dropping out. Now, he works with schools to implement a unique pedagogical approach, of his own design, that helps teachers and administrators improve passing rates and build meaningful relationships with students at risk of dropping out. Hernandez will received NEA’s Reg Weaver’s Human and Civil Rights Award for his fervent commitment to helping poor students and eliminate poverty.

Caroline Hunter
Science and Math Teacher (retired); Mass.

Caroline Hunter is a champion of human and civil rights, which is why she will be awarded NEA’s Rosa Parks Memorial Award. As a person of conscience, Hunter was instrumental in exposing her then employer, Polaroid Corporation, for doing business with the apartheid government of South Africa. After seven years of protests led by Hunter, Polaroid completely pulled out of South Africa. Polaroid’s decision helped launch the international divestment movement, which eventually crippled apartheid in South Africa. Now, a retired secondary science and math teacher, Hunter continues her life as a social justice activist.

Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA)
Local Education Association; Louisville, Ky.
The 2012 Rosena J. Willis Memorial Award will be presented to the Jefferson County Teachers Association for the revitalization of its human rights program. Jefferson County has an emotionally charged history of segregation that continues to impact the community today. JCTA’s leadership decided to revitalize its Human and Civil Rights Committee to help address human and civil rights issues; the Committee now conducts rigorous diversity trainings for JCTA members throughout the year.

Graeme Taylor
Student; Ann Arbor, Mich.

Graeme Taylor has appeared on nationally syndicated shows and cable network news programs in support of an educator who was suspended without pay for disciplining a student who made anti-gay remarks. Taylor is an outspoken anti-bullying activist. Graeme Taylor will receive the 2012 SuAnne big Crow Memorial Award for his continued work to enhance the sense of worth and dignity of fellow GLBT students and his strong commitment to guiding teachers in understanding what it is like to be a GLBT student.

Reverend Mark Kiyimba Yusuf
Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Uganda; Uganda

Homophobia already existed in Uganda, but when three evangelical Christians arrived in the country to speak at a conference against homosexuality, it ignited an explosion of anti-gay sentiment. Into this cauldron of hate has an extraordinary man roseÑthe Rev. Mark Kiyimba Yusuf. Rev. Kiyimba Yusuf has the only church in Uganda that welcomes all peopleÑgays and lesbians, Blacks and Caucasians, rich and poor. He preaches the gospel of love, and has publicly opposed the attacks on gays and lesbians. Rev. Kiyimba Yusuf’s courage has resulted in hundreds of death threats. But, Rev. Kiyimba Yusuf also will be honored for his courage with NEA’s Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights.

The annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner was originally created by the American Teachers Association (ATA), which represented Black teachers in segregated schoolsÑand when NEA and ATA merged in 1966, NEA agreed to carry on this annual human and civil rights awards tradition. NEA members submit nominations for the annual awards. Nominations are reviewed by NEA’s Human and Civil Rights Committee which makes recommendations to the NEA Executive Committee. The Executive Committee determines the award recipients.


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