Human Rights Legends Honored at Annual Celebration in Tennessee

Tennesseans gathered on December 10th to celebrate International Human Rights Day. During the event, legends were honored with awards in three categories: Rising Advocate, Outstanding Service and Lifetime Achievement.

Human Rights Rising Advocate Awards went to Frances Anderson who has been working with refugees since 2011 and now has a position with Catholic Charities of Middle Tennessee as the state refugee health coordinator; and Tequila Johnson, co-founder and vice president of The Equity Alliance, a Tennessee-based nonprofit that equips black and brown citizens with tools and strategies to strengthen their communities and make government work better.

The Outstanding Service Award went to Rev. Keith Caldwell, pastor of Key United Methodist Church in Murfreesboro, Co-Founder of the Urban Epicenter, and president of the Nashville branch of the NAACP; and Rashed Fakruddhin, past president of the Islamic Center of Nashville who is involved in numerous multicultural and outreach events and programs throughout the year and also serves on the YWCA board where he is deeply involved with the AMEND initiative.

The Lifetime Achievement Awards went to Nashville attorney Abby Rubenfeld who was instrumental in getting gay marriage before the U.S. Supreme Court, and has been a longtime advocate for equal rights; and Rev. Edwin C. Sanders II, Senior Servant and Founder of Metropolitan Interdenominational Church which attracts a broad cross-section of people with the mission of being “inclusive of all and alienating to none.” The church’s outreach ministries include substance abuse, advocacy for children, sexual violence, and harm reduction, and since 1984 has provided services to persons infected with, and affected by, HIV/AIDS with the First Response Center being founded in 1992.

The theme for Human Rights Day was “Vote on Purpose: The Communal Impact of One Vote,” and focused on the 100 year anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement and how voter’s rights impact all other human rights. A panel incorporating this theme was moderated by David Plazas of the Tennessean and panel members included Aisha Lbhalla with the Muslim Women’s Council, Raul Lopez with Men of Valor, and Omari Booker, a local freedom artist.

The event was opened by singer/songwriter Courtney Ariel Bowden with her original song Burning Bright.

A committee of human rights organizations, nonprofits, and advocates, including the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, Metro Human Relations Commission, United Nations Association, Amnesty International, Scarritt Bennett Center, Tennessee United for Human Rights, the Church of Scientology, and others, work together each year to plan the event.

“Human Rights Day gives the community a chance to acknowledge advocates and leaders while also learning more about what human rights really mean for all people,” says planning committee chair Rev. Brian Fesler, pastor of the Church of Scientology in Nashville.

All information regarding the event can be found on the website