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NEA honors 12 outstanding human and civil rights heroes at annual gala

Annual gala also marks 50th anniversary of the NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner

WASHINGTON - July 01, 2017 -

They shatter glass ceilings. They stand up for those who have been knocked down. They make sure the voices of those whose voices are drowned out are heard. They confront the most pressing issues facing our communities. They offer a beacon of light to those left behind.

Since 1967, the National Education Association has recognized and honored those who have fought — and continue to fight — for human and civil rights. This year, NEA honored the outstanding work of 12 American social justice heroes at its annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner on Saturday, July 1, in Boston. The theme of the awards dinner is “Living the Legacy: After 50 Years, Still We Rise.”

“The recipients of the 2017 Human and Civil Rights Awards embody the spirit of Dr. Maya Angelou’s beloved poem ‘Still I Rise,’” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Through their deeds and actions, these human and civil rights heroes are still rising and carrying the torch forward. Tonight, we renew our commitment to stand for racial and social justice and pledge to continue to shed a light on their work as they guide and inspire us all.”

NEA also recognized the anniversary of its merger with the American Teachers Association, which represented black teachers in segregated schools. ATA originally created the Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner, and, as part of the merger, NEA continues this tradition 50 years later.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin

Because she is a highly respected legislator who gets work done for women of all ages, NEA honors U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin with its 2017 Mary Hatwood Futrell Human and Civil Rights Award.  

Watch this video of Senator Baldwin working on behalf girls, women, and all of her constituents. To read . Baldwin’s full bio, please click here.

Migrant Justice

For its efforts and success in establishing a safe and fair working environment for immigrant workers in Vermont, especially in this time of fear and uncertainty for many immigrant families, NEA awards Migrant Justice the prestigious NEA Cesar Chavez Accion y Compromiso Human and Civil Rights Award.

Watch this video of Migrant Justice as members fight for the rights and dignity of migrants working on Vermont dairy farms. To read Migrant Justice's full bio, please click here.

Jim Obergefell

For his monumental fight in the Obergefell v. Hodges U.S. Supreme Court case, resulting in the landmark ruling legalizing same-sex marriage across the nation, NEA awards Jim Obergefell the Virginia Uribe Award for Creative Leadership in Human Rights.

See a moving video of Obergefell’s fight for same sex marriage here. To read his full bio, please click here.

Delbert Richardson

The National Education Association  presents Delbert Richardson with the NEA Carter G. Woodson Memorial Award for his unique and remarkable traveling African American museum.  His museum, The Unspoken Truths, paints the tragedy of slavery and racial discrimination in vivid colors and, at the same time, serves as a reminder of African Americans’ many contributions to America.

Watch a video about how The Unspoken Truths is reaching children and adults never before exposed up-close to their history. To read his full bio, please click here.

The Latino Peace Officers Association (Omaha)

For its efforts and success in developing positive relations between communities of color and law enforcement in Omaha, Nebraska, in a national climate of tension between the two,  NEA bestows upon the Latino Peace Officers Association of Omaha (LPOA) its prestigious NEA George I. Sánchez Award.

Watch how the LPOA has built bridges of empathy to Omaha’s children of color by supporting youth soccer and baseball as well as Christmas and Easter events. To read LPOA’s full bio, please click here.

Kent Wong

NEA awards Kent Wong the Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award for his lifelong dedication to the labor movement and advancing the cause of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Watch this video of attorney and educator Kent Wong as he champions the rights of workers and immigrants while inspiring a new generation of social justice activists. To read Wong’s full bio, please click here.

The Illinois Education Association

The Illinois Education Association (IEA) is receiving NEA’s prestigious Rosena J. Willis Memorial Award for bringing the issue of how brain trauma affects children’s ability to learn to the forefront of education. 

Watch this video about how the IEA is leading the way in bringing the science of brain trauma in children to education. To read the IEA’s full bio, please click here.

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Veronica Garcia

Because of her hard work and strong advocacy for public education and students, especially for disadvantaged children from poor families, Dr. Veronica García, superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools, has been awarded the NEA H. Councill Trenholm Award.

Watch this video of Dr. Garcia advocating for all students, regardless of their economic or immigration status. To read her full bio, please click here.

Marty Meeden

Recognizing his life’s work for equal educational opportunity and rights for all marginalized students and educators, especially Native Americans, NEA presents Marty Meeden with the Leo Reano Memorial Human and Civil Rights Award.

Watch this video of educator and Native American advocate Marty Medeen’s fight against sports mascots that are degrading and demeaning. To read his full bio, please click here.

Wendy Marcec

NEA presents to Wendy Marcec, a retired Tennessee educator, its prestigious 2017 Reg Weaver Human and Civil Rights Award for her unyielding work to alleviate the effects of poverty in Appalachian Kentucky.

Watch a video of Wendy Marcec as she works tirelessly for poor kids in Appalachia. To read her full bio, please click here.

Michael Joseph Franklin

Michael Joseph Franklin receives the NEA Applegate-Dorros Peace and International Understanding Award for his work in educating, empowering, and improving the lives of thousands of girls and women in Honduras.

When not teaching high school Spanish in Tennessee, Franklin works with women in Honduran villages helping them to create a clean water culture. Watch this video of Michael Joseph Franklin in action. To read his full bio, please click here.

Dr. Lenworth Alburn Gunther

Known as the “Godfather” to a generation of civil rights activists in New York and New Jersey, Dr. Lenworth Alburn Gunther received the NEA Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Award because of his lifelong activism for racial and social justice.

He pioneered African American Studies in the state’s public schools; since retiring from teaching, he’s mentored educators and police officers on diversity. Watch a video of Dr. Gunther in action. To view his full bio, please click here.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers

Miguel A. Gonzalez, NEA Communications

meet the 2017 HCR award recipients