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NEA honors everyday heroes who fight for racial and social justice

NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards are “a celebration of those who will not be silent…”

Washington, DC - June 30, 2020 -

Thousands watched online tonight as the National Education Association bestowed upon eleven extraordinary everyday heroes its most prestigious award – The 2020 NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards: We Rise Together. The first-ever virtual celebration included a memorable performance by renowned opera singer Davóne Tines and remarks by NEA President Lily Eskelsen García and distinguished guests and honorees.

From the NEA-retired educator who helps find shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth in Wisconsin to the two Utah teachers who have exponentially increased the number of Latina and Latino students in their high school’s Advanced Placement classes, these individuals, organizations and groups have fought to make sure every student receives a quality public education no matter her or his ZIP code and have advanced racial and social justice in their communities.

“Together We Rise is the perfect theme for this year’s awards ceremony,” said Eskelsen García. “In the wake of the May 25 murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police and the month of unifying, anti-police violence demonstrations that followed in cities across America, we saw the courageous actions from educators, community members, our students, community organizations, and the work of our award recipients themselves. Their deeds and actions are inspirational examples of the courage enshrined in the NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards.”

Wednesday’s event honored Stacey Abrams, recipient of the NEA President’s HCR Award for her work as founder of Fair Fight, an initiative to stop the suppression of young voters and voters of color. “Growing up, my parents had three tenets for my siblings and me: go to school, go to church, and take care of each other. They understood that education was the essential ingredient,” Abrams said in her video remarks.

“The work that NEA does to ensure that every student in America, no matter their background, receives a quality education is vital to our democracy,” she said. “Thank you to the 3.2 million members of the NEA who are working to ensure that our nation’s future is more equitable and just. I am deeply humbled by your work and this honor.”

NEA recognized the Philando Castile Relief Foundation, named after the late African American education professional fatally shot in St. Paul, Minn., in the summer of 2016 during a routine traffic stop, for its work to reform police practices and to help pay balances for the school lunches of students in need. “Philando was a pillar in the community. He was a role model and mentor to children,” said Valerie Castile, Philando’s mother, and president and CEO of the foundation. “He knew all of them by name. He understood what it meant to have a nutritious meal. It is an honor and a privilege to accept this NEA award on behalf of Philando.”

“This is a celebration of those who will not be silent, for those… who will act, no matter who pushes back, no matter who attacks them, no matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable their protests and actions make powerful people feel,” Eskelsen García concluded.

NEA recognized the following individuals, groups, and organizations for continuing the quest for human and civil rights in America:

To complement the first-ever virtual celebration, NEA unveiled a new, permanent website that is home to all of the content related to the HCR Awards: bios of recipients, acceptance videos of honorees, keynotes, and other pertinent information. Check out the new website at

About the NEA HCR Awards

The merger of the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Teachers Association (ATA) in 1966 produced the annual NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards. ATA, which represented Black teachers in segregated schools, traditionally honored leaders in the justice and civil rights movement annually. Since the merger, NEA has recognized and honored educators, individuals, community partners, and organizations that are advancing the mantle for human and civil rights.

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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, students preparing to become teachers, healthcare workers, and public employees. Learn more at

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez, NEA Communications