HUMAN RIGHTS AWARDS - Kimberley Lovato


12 December 2003 Kimberley Lovato

The Tampa-Hillsborough Human Rights Council hosted its annual Human Rights Awards Breakfast today at the Doubletree Hotel in Tampa. This marks the 30th year of the ceremony that also serves as the council’s primary fundraiser and membership drive, and the 55th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and Hillsborough County Commissioner Thomas Scott were guest speakers during the hour-long program attended by over 400 people. WMNF’s Kimberly Lovato reports:

The Human Rights Award is given to individuals living in the community who give their time and provide services, above and beyond what they are compensated for, to the people of Hillsborough County. This year, Human Rights Council Member Joyce Russell handed out five Human Rights Awards, and praised them for their efforts to improve their communities.

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The winners were Liesta S. Sykes who has won numerous awards from the department of children and families. Sheila Wade, a long time member of the Tampa Police Department Community Relations Department. Betty P. Wiggins, for her tireless involvement with East Tampa revitalization organizations. Jorge E. Rios, who is the current chair of the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory council, and an advocate for new immigrants to Tampa.

Russell’s introduction of final recipient Dena Gross Leavengood resulted in applause from supporters. Her lists of accomplishments are endless and include 20 years of work for the environment, education, and not for profit organizations.

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Both Mayor Iorio and Commissioner Scott spoke about the role of government in the fight for human rights. Iorio reflected back in history, and referenced 1944 court case Smith vs. Allright, which she called one of the most significant because it determined primary elections to be of public nature, and therefore the polls were opened to all people, including blacks, in a deeply segregated south. But, Iorio said that although government certainly does play a role, it is people who are most effective.

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While Iorio gave the group a historical perspective, Commissioner Scott urged government and people to also look toward the future.

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Scott acknowledged that the government plans for roads, schools and other community related benefits, and in order it to effect change in the area of human rights, the government must also address a plan of actions. Scott says that when talking about the struggle for human rights, the government must do 3 things: recognize diversity, respect human dignity, and reaffirm its commitment to human rights.

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Both speakers thanked today’s recipients for their continued efforts to better our community. Scott referenced a quote by abolitionist Fredrick Douglas that says: “Where there is no struggle, there is no progress.�

Today in Tampa, it is clear that there are many people in our community dedicated to the progress of human rights.

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