We usually focus on celebrating local people like Calistoga City Councilman Jim Barnes, whom the Calistoga Chamber of Commerce honored last week with its Gary Barrett Lifetime Achievement Award, and Norma Ferriz, the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Citizen of the Year.
Today, however, we’re going a bit farther afield – the National Education Association will honor a dozen people from throughout the United States, naming them human and civil rights champions.
Since 1967, the NEA has recognized and honored everyday heroes who have fought — and continue to fight — for human and civil rights across the country. This year, NEA will acknowledge 12 outstanding social justice champions at its Human and Civil Rights Awards ceremony on Wednesday, July 3 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas.
-Wisconsin State Senator Tim Cullen
-Educators Rick and Lorie Erickson, of Bayfield, Wisconsin
-GSAFE, of Wisconsin
-Baxter Leach and the surviving members of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike
-Luanelly Iglesias, teacher and founder of Madre Latina Foundation, Connecticut
-Leila Kubesch, educator, advocate, and founder of Parents2Partners.org
-The late Dolores McCracken, educator and past president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association
-The Missouri National Education Association
-OneAmerica with Justice for All, of Washington State
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-Dr. Charles Prickett, civil rights activist, attorney of Oakland
-Dr. Mia Williams, principal at Aki Kurose Middle School, Seattle, Washington
-Eddy Zheng, prisoner, activist, and immigrant, California
“The recipients of the 2019 NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards are social justice champions, forging paths for opportunities for every student in every school no matter their ZIP code, and standing up against injustices everywhere,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “We proudly honor their contributions and sacrifices. By embodying what is right and just about the world in which we live, they motivate us to purposeful and principled action.”
On the websites of the Star and Calistogan, all of the honorees are profiled. In print, we’ve picked out just a few of these inspiring people.
Civil rights activist and attorney Dr. Charles Prickett will receive the Carter G. Woodson Memorial Award in recognition of a life dedicated to the service of others. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of an America judged by the content of its character, Prickett took part in one of the nation’s most important youth movements, 1964’s “Freedom Summer,” which attempted to register black voters in Mississippi, a state notorious for denying voter access through racist literacy tests, poll taxes, and, at times, with bullets. Prickett not only registered hundreds of new voters, he also helped black farmers gain access to federally subsidized farm programs and marched over the Edmund Pettus bridge to Selma on Bloody Sunday.
Senator Tim Cullen will receive the President’s Award for his commitment to increasing diversity in the classroom, his dedication to quality public education, and his lifetime of public service in shaping Wisconsin’s public school system. Cullen also developed the Janesville Minority Teacher Scholarship to increase the number of educators of color in Janesville. Since its inception in 2008, the program has produced educators working in their local school district’s schools.
Baxter Leach and the surviving members of the 1968 Memphis sanitation strike will receive the César Chavez Acción y Compromiso Human and Civil Rights Award for their historic and courageous battle for the dignity of workers that caught the attention and support of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The striking workers demanded safer working conditions, better wages, and a recognition of their union. The Memphis Sanitation Strike also exposed the economic and racial inequality among residents of the city. Following King’s address to the striking sanitation workers, he was assassinated on the second floor of the Lorraine motel.
Youth counselor and activist Eddy Zheng will receive the NEA Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award for his dedication to the redemptive and transformative powers of education. Born in China and arriving in the United States at age 12, Zheng was convicted as a juvenile at the age of 16 and sentenced to seven years to life in San Quentin State Prison, at the time the youngest inmate of the facility. Since his release, he has devoted his time to working with San Francisco-area youths, mentoring them on the importance of an education, honoring their roots, and raising awareness about the impact of criminalization and deportation within the Asian American/Pacific Islander community. Because of his work as a recognized advocate for prison reform and youth violence prevention, he also is the subject of an award-winning documentary, “Breathin’: The Eddy Zheng Story.”