Next Generation of Social Justice Advocates to Receive Pressnell Bill of Rights Award
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 19, 2016
Lindsay Kee, ACLU-TN communications director, (615) 320-7142
NASHVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee announced today that it will honor Bernard Werthan with its Lifetime Achievement Award at the organization’s November 17 fundraiser, The Constitution Uncorked.
Bernard Werthan, a fourth generation Nashvillian, has been a leader in the fight to dismantle social barriers and realize racial and religious integration for over fifty years. As a founding board member of the Opportunities Industrialization Center, he has helped prepare disenfranchised people, including individuals leaving prison, for careers in the local economy. In addition, as a leader of the Family of Abraham and the Faith and Cultural Center’s Our Muslim Neighbors group, he has dedicated his life to building bridges between people from different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds.
“Bernard has worked for over 50 years to creatively and tirelessly realize racial and religious integration in our communities,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN executive director. “Through all his endeavors, his work has encouraged mutual understanding and respect, bringing us closer to achieving a more just and inclusive society.”
This year’s celebration will also honor three young adults who represent the next generation of activists working toward social justice in their communities with the 2016 Benjamin S. Pressnell Bill of Rights Award.
Justin Bautista-Jones, a senior at Fisk University, is a strategic organizer who has dedicated countless hours to fighting barriers to the ballot box by mobilizing young people to vote, testifying at the legislature, coordinating rallies, and, in collaboration with the late attorney George Barrett, challenging the inability of students to use college photo IDs as identification to vote. He was one of the organizers of the “March Against Fear,” held in response to the massacre at a predominantly Black South Carolina church, and he organized a rally and marched from North Carolina to Washington, D.C. in support of access to health care.
Drost Kokoye, a first-year law student, is a vocal and passionate grassroots mobilizer across the state. She has organized and supported vigils, rallies and awareness programs around the issues of religious freedom, fair treatment of immigrants and refugees, racial justice and police accountability, voting rights and more. Drost’s leadership has broken social barriers and fostered greater understanding and interaction with Tennessee’s Muslim community.
Henry Seaton, a recent graduate of Beech High School, dedicated his senior year to speaking out on behalf of LGBT youth. In particular, he lobbied against the anti-transgender bathroom access bill and co-founded a group offering supportive space for LGBT youth who are aging out of other empowerment programs. Through his efforts, he is helping to change the conversation statewide about transgender individuals and their rights.
“These young adults represent the next generation of change agents who are already engaged in the fight for equality and justice,” Weinberg said. “Their courage, tenacity, and passion will continue to transform the social justice landscape in Tennessee and beyond for years to come.”
Award-winning recording artists, The Stellas, will offer a special performance.
ACLU-TN’s pro-active and strategic work takes place in the courtroom, at the Capitol, and in the court of public opinion. It advocates for criminal justice reform, racial justice, and access to the ballot box; defends freedom of speech and religious freedom; pursues fair treatment of immigrants and refugees; and challenges assaults on reproductive freedom, LGBT equality and other privacy rights.
ACLU-TN’s annual celebration this year will take place on Thursday, November 17 from 6-8 p.m. at the Noah Liff Opera Center in Nashville. The cocktail party will include hors d’oeuvres, music, a silent auction and a brief awards ceremony. Tickets for the event are $150.00 per person and are available here along with sponsorship opportunities. Tickets and sponsorships may also be purchased by calling the ACLU-TN office at 615-320-7142.