The Human Rights Experience touches nerves with joy and dismay, and so it was at the Poets for Human Rights Annual Awards at Clearwater Main Library on Saturday, December 12.
The purpose of the annual awards event is to enlighten, educate and validate those members of our community who through selfless effort make our world better.
The event was hosted by Poets for Human Rights co-founder Larry Jaffe. Special presentations were made by Poets for Human Rights Co-Founder Stazja McFadyen for the winners of the 2009 Anita McAndrews Award and Alexander Popoff Award poetry contests, and by event producer Shelley Jaffe who introduced the winners of the 2009 Clearwater Humanitarian Awards.
Eleanor Roosevelt one of the prime movers of the Declaration had this to say about Human Rights: “Where, after all, do Universal Rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.”
The event opened with a short welcome by Mr. Jaffe and moved on to a moving invocation by Maurice Mickens, Deacon of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church . Jaffe then read the proclamation from Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard designating December 5 – 12 to be Clearwater Human Rights Week.
Gracia Bennish, President of United for Human Rights, informed everyone about the organization and its purpose of bringing groups together for greater strength. Ms. Bennish then made the official announcement appointing Larry Jaffe as the Poet Laureate and voice of United for Human Rights. A showing of the award-winning documentary The Story of Human Rights produced by the group followed.
Shelley Jaffe presented the Clearwater Humanitarian Awards. This year’s winners are an incredible group that makes our city very proud. Awardees included Maurice Mickens for his tireless work with youth in the Greenwood community, Community Tampa Bay ’s Executive Director Stacie Blake, Tampa Bay Academy of Hope Founder James M. Evans, Ida Lopez of World Relief and the Community Learning Center . Each of these individuals received standing ovations for their accomplishments. Tears of joy were seen on the entire audience.
Stazja McFadyen hosted the poetry segment of the program which featured special guest Venus Jones who led the audience with a responsive poem and a truly wonderful poem as a response to the movie Precious. The Anita McAndrews Award winning poem written by Seattle Poet Sarah Zale received a dramatic reading by Lisa Mansell. Renee Duke told a stirring story about her relationship with Anita McAndrews. Other guest poets included L.D. Sledge, 2008 Anita McAndrews Award winner, Dustin McGahee, President of Youth for Human Rights, Malcolm Johnson and Barbara Sorey.
The event ended with Jaffe reading a poem called I Never Saw Another Butterfly from a collection of the same name with works of art and poetry by Jewish children who lived in the concentration camp Theresienstadt. This book is named after a poem by one of the children, Pavel Friedmann.