Human Rights Day Uplifts Leaders of Tomorrow

The Celebration of International Human Rights Day at the First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tennessee, acknowledges human rights heroes.

Youth Youth panel discusses freedom of expression moderated by 2016 Human Rights Rising Advocate Justin Jones at International Human Rights Day event at First Amendment Center, Nashville.

The First Amendment Center in Nashville hosted an International Human Rights Day program Dec. 7 with the theme “Human Rights: Our Leaders of Tomorrow.” The planning committee brought together a youth panel to discuss freedom of expression, moderated by 2016 Human Rights Rising Advocate Justin Jones. The panel was comprised of student leaders from Lipscomb and Belmont Universities as well as the Public Art Coordinator for the Metro Arts Commission. And two members of the Tennessee State University Speech & Debate Team delivered a spoken word performance on the subject of human rights and freedom of expression.

Human Rights Day is a time to acknowledge leaders who have dedicated their lives to service, those who have done outstanding work and those taking up the torch for tomorrow. Awards went to human rights champions in three categories: Rising Advocate, Outstanding Service, and Lifetime Achievement.

Rising Advocate Awards were presented to three individuals who have made great strides for human rights and show even greater promise for the future: Kayo Beshir, undergraduate at Middle Tennessee State University who works on and off campus to promote human rights; Pratik Dash with Women On Maintaining Education and Nutrition (WOMEN) and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC); and Madison White, junior at Lipscomb University, involved in local pro bono legal clinics and nonprofits such as Make a Wish Foundation, Second Harvest Food Bank and Free for Life International.

Award winners in the category of Outstanding Service were Jerry Redman, Cofounder and CEO of Second Life of Tennessee, an awareness and advocacy organization working to end sex trafficking; and Zulfat Suara, advocate for minorities, chair of the American Muslim Advisory Council (AMAC) and president-elect of Tennessee Women Political Caucus.

The Lifetime Achievement award went to Thelma Harper, the first African-American woman to become a Tennessee State Senator, and Joey King, board member of Veterans for Peace.

International Human Rights Day is celebrated every year to commemorate the Dec. 10, 1948, ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations. A committee of human rights organizations and nonprofits work together each year to plan the event, including Tennessee Human Rights Commission, Metro Human Relations Commission, United Nations Association, UNICEF, Amnesty International, Free for Life International, Tennessee United for Human Rights and the Church of Scientology. For more information or to see event photos, visit


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