Youth for Human Rights Poet Laureate Larry Jaffe hosted the afternoon event and presentation. Larry along with Stazja McFadyen co-founded Poets for Human Rights which works closely with the youth group. Following his warm inviting welcome, Jaffe read the proclamation from the Mayor to the assembled audience. One of the highlights of the event was the dynamic reading of the declaration by the audience. This reading dubbed the “Human Rights Experience” empowers each individual with their rights as they stand up and recite. You could feel the energy spread around the room as each person in turn stood up and read their rights.
Next Mr. Jaffe introduced Ali Magnano, President of the Tampa Bay Chapter of Youth for Human Rights. Ms. Magnano expressed her desire to involve youth of all ages to be involved with the human rights campaign. She also explained the purpose of Youth for Human Rights was to get educational institutions putting in a human rights curriculum for students.
For the past three years, Poets for Human Rights co-founder Stazja McFadyen has been directing two poetry contests celebrating human rights. The 2008 Anita McAndrews Poetry Contest winner was Clearwater local L. D. Sledge who read his poem at the event. The Alexander Popoff Youth Award Poetry Contests winner was Jennifer Hu from Pennsylvania.
The audience was then treated to special guest James E. Tokley, Sr., Tampa Poet Laureate. Mr. Tokley read a selection of poems relating to human rights and a series of poems he wrote for President Elect Obama. A surprise reading by Venus Jones left the audience gasping. Ms. McFadyen and Mr. Jaffe wrapped up the poetry side of the event.
For the first time, the Clearwater Humanitarian Awards were given out to deserving personages from the Tampa Bay area. The award was designed by Shelley Jaffe who helped on the presentations. The first award went to Giselle Rodriguez, a Victim Specialist for the Florida Coalition against Human Trafficking. Ms. Rodriguez was humbled by the award and stated she was “truly grateful” for the acknowledgment. She is right on the front lines of human rights rescuing the trapped and vanquished that have been reduced to human slaves The Florida Coalition rescues several hundreds a year from the clutches of the multi-billion dollar a year illegal slave traffickers. The next recipient was Linda Drazkowski, who heads up the annual Human Rights Walkathon in St. Petersburg. Because of her devotion to arts and human rights, Stazja McFadyen received the next award. To say she was surprised would be an understatement. The final award was presented to Pinellas County Middle School Teach Elizabeth Paterakis for introducing human rights to student studies.
The event was a rousing dedication to the cause of Human Rights in beautiful downtown Clearwater. Both participants and audience walked away with greater knowledge of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and more importantly, that something not only can be done but also is being done to guarantee these rights.
- Tampa Bay Informer
The Good News Newspaper