Reebok & ASU Partner with ACLU to Present Reebok's Human Rights Awards
ASU Featured in Global 2021 Reebok Human Rights Awards Summit
By Kenneth Mullinax/ASU
"Here's to Humanity" was the theme of the 2021 virtual Reebok Human Rights Award (HRA) Summit held on Aug. 12 in partnership with Alabama State University and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The virtual event provided the platform for the announcement of the three recipients of the revitalized awards that honor extraordinary human rights activists under 30 years-old.
The winners of this year's awards each received a $100,000 check intended to support their human rights initiatives. LaTonya Myers (Philadelphia), Eva Maria Lewis (Chicago) and Hernán Carvente-Martinez (New York) were announced as the 2021 HRA recipients. Their work was highlighted in three poignant documentaries that told their individual stories and their efforts to combat systemic racism, to provide for the needs of the disadvantaged and to advocate for alternatives to incarceration of the nation’s young people.
Participating in the event were such well-known personalities as Reebok President, Matt O’Toole; NBA superstar, Shaquille O'Neal; Reebok Human Rights Award Board member, poet and activist, Sara Mora; and “Me, Too” Movement founder, Tarana Burke, who spoke of the influence that Alabama State University had on her future as an activist when she was a student at the institution 30 years ago.
Alabama State University figured prominently in the pre-recorded segments of the program. ASU President, Dr. Quinton T. Ross, Jr., and a group of ASU students opened the ceremony in a video depicting the campus with a narrative reflecting on the University’s historic legacy and the nationwide resurgence of human rights advocacy. With the ASU Stadium as a backdrop, Ross welcomed the live event's attendees, setting the stage for the ensuing discussions of the importance of human rights and the need for advocacy.
"Race continues to dominate our nation," said Ross. "We must do more and fight harder if we are to persevere. These are the heroes (the event's award winners) who went above and beyond to further our civil rights...working together, we can combat racism.” Ross ended his opening remarks by saying: "As a community, we can move mountains together."
Immediately following President Ross were remarks by "Shaq" who is a Reebok Human Rights Award Board member. "Today, in the fight against systemic oppression, we highlight three young people and celebrate them as we fight the same fight as those who came before us," said O'Neal.
WINNERS EXPRESS THEIR THANKS
The highlight of the event were the announcements of the award winners. Each of the winners had learned of the honor prior to the event during recorded messages from Reebok’s president. Cameras captured their tears and emotional responses to the news that they had been selected. They each spoke live to the global audience, expressing their heartfelt gratitude to Alabama State University, the ACLU and Reebok for the recognition of their work.
Chicago resident, Eva Maria Lewis, shared that she considers her award as positive affirmation that gives fuel to her commitment to help others.
“I am so incredibly honored to receive this award. It will be very instrumental in taking the work I care so deeply about to the next level. It is also so important to trust young black and brown people to create the futures we want to see for our communities and self. Opportunities like this, that validate our labor and equip us with the tools to succeed, are tremendously necessary,” said Lewis.
New Yorker, Hernán Carvente-Martinez, recognized the many young leaders across the nation whose goal is a world without youth prisons.
“I am honored to have had the opportunity to go from being a youth leader myself to now coaching and supporting so many other amazing and talented young people over the last nine years since coming out of prison,” said Carvente-Martinez, founder/CEO of Healing Ninjas, Inc. “Thank you to Alabama State University, ACLU and everyone involved in the formation of this award. Let us continue working together to build a world where every young person has the opportunity to live healthy, loving, successful lives. It's time to put an end to the youth prison model and create more pathways for youth to heal.”
Philadelphia resident, LaTonya Myers, shared that she has dedicated her life to helping others.
“Tens of thousands of people return to Philadelphia communities from prisons each year. I was one of those people. My life’s work is to not only lessen the burden placed on those within the system, but to find ways for folks to thrive once they are free from it. I started my organization, Above All Odds to do just that. I am incredibly grateful for, and humbled by the recognition of my work by Reebok, ACLU, and Alabama State University," Myers said.
ASU PLAYS KEY ROLE IN PRESENTATION OF REEBOK AWARDS
Alabama State University representatives were actively involved in the planning of the HRA Summit. ASU organizers included Jennifer S. Anderson, executive director of Advancement initiatives; Lois G. Russell, Vice President for Marketing and Strategic Communications; Dr. Denise Davis Maye, professor and interim chair of the Department of Social Work; and Destiny Williams, project manager and ASU graduate who served as a consultant on this project. Theatre Arts Department chair, Brian Martin, coordinated the student-focused opening to the event. ASU alumnus, Kevin Ford, a graduate of the University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, painted an original human rights-focused piece of artwork as part of a spoken word performance. Two members of the Hornet Nation family serve on the HRA Board of Directors: Phaidra Knight, an ASU alumna and Hall of Fame rugby player, and ASU professor, Dr. Regina Moorer.
“ASU was central to the organization of this phenomenal event,” said Anderson. “From helping to devise the process for selecting the winners and then spearheading the selection committee, to the various video presentations that included ASU’s President, students and alumni, ASU’s HRA team has worked diligently for nearly a year with Reebok and the ACLU to make this event happen. We are deeply honored that Reebok selected ASU as a partner for the summit. Our participation recognizes the University’s historical and continued role in the fight for human rights.”
ABOUT THE REEBOK HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD
The Reebok Human Rights Award previously ran from 1988 to 2007 and had more than 80 winners who hailed from nearly 40 countries. The previous winners were noted as individuals who accomplished impactful work to promote human rights and fight injustice. Past recipients included such extraordinary people as Winona LaDuke (1988); Li Lui, Wang Dan, Chai Ling, and Wu’Er KaiXi (1989); and Montgomery's Bryan Stevenson (1989)
ABOUT REEBOK'S HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD RECIPIENTS
Eva Maria Lewis
Lewis is the founder and executive director of the Free Root Operation, a non-profit organization focusing on combating gun violence in black and brown communities on the south and west sides of Chicago. The Free Root Operation that Eva Maria started when she was 16 years-old, promotes access to an equitable education, food, housing, health, and other resources as solutions instead of violence. She started the Chicago Food Pairing Program in the wake of mass grocery store closures in 2020, which serves as a free grocery and supply delivery service for those who express a need, builds relationships between people on opposite sides of Chicago, and helps people feel empowered, taken care of, and deeply connected with their community. Eva Maria’s organization has served more than 500 families and 2,000 individuals, via food acquisition and delivery. Her peace rooms have been used by over 600 students, while nearly 3,000 are benefiting from her work on a continual basis.
Carvente-Martinez is the founder and CEO of Healing Ninjas, Inc. a recently launched company that focuses on ensuring that mental health and healing resources become more visible and accessible to communities of color. After being incarcerated as a youth with substance abuse, gang life and mental health issues, he started working at the Youth First Initiative where he led the creation of the Youth Leaders Network. It engages youth leaders from 14 states to work together to hone their leadership, advocacy and communication skills to help advance local campaigns that are focused on abolishing youth prisons.
Myers is the founder of the grassroots service and advocacy organization Above All Odds that is fiercely dedicated to transforming the criminal justice system, supporting returning citizens, and empowering communities that have experienced historical disinvestment and disproportionate targeting by law enforcement. She invests time, energy and financial resources into mentoring African-American and LGBTQIA youth. Once incarcerated herself, she now visits prisons and jails to assist those who are currently detained, and helps returning citizens with jobs and housing. She mobilizes community members, activists, and elected officials to raise awareness of issues within the criminal legal system, and has testified before the Pennsylvania legislature, calling for probation reform legislation.
For more information on the Reebok Human Rights Award, please visit: https://www.reebok.com/
ASU news media contact: Kenneth Mullinax, 334-229-4104.
Reebok International Ltd., headquartered in Boston, MA, USA, is a leading worldwide designer, marketer and distributor of fitness and lifestyle footwear, apparel and equipment. An American-inspired global brand, Reebok is a pioneer in the sporting goods industry with a rich and storied fitness heritage. Reebok develops products, technologies and programming that enable movement so people can fulfill their potential. Reebok connects with the fitness consumer wherever they are and however they choose to stay fit – whether it’s functional training, running, combat training, walking, dance, yoga or aerobics. Reebok Classics leverages the brand’s fitness heritage and represents the roots of the brand in the sports lifestyle market. For more information, visit Reebok at www.reebok.com, or, for the latest news at http://news.reebok.com/
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For nearly 100 years, the ACLU has worked in courts, legislatures, and communities to protect the constitutional rights of all people. With a nationwide network of offices and millions of members and supporters, we take up the toughest civil liberties fights. Beyond one person, party, or side — we the people dare to create a more perfect union. Learn more at aclu.org
About Alabama State University
Founded in 1867, Alabama State University is a comprehensive, regional institution offering students from across the nation and around the globe a world-class education. ASU’s learning experiences are holistic and are designed to develop intellectual, as well as social, moral, cultural and ethical values. ASU graduates are equipped with the skills, insights, attitudes and practical experiences that will enable them to become well-rounded, contributing citizens, fully qualified to take their places in their chosen professions and in service to humanity.
Over the past 15 years, ASU has experienced tremendous growth, both physically and academically. State-of-the-art academic facilities now grace the 395-acre campus. High-demand programs have been established and cutting-edge research is being conducted by ASU faculty and students. With a focus on a global initiative, the campus has a more diverse population while maintaining its proud heritage as one of the nation’s leading Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs). We offer the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science, as well as master’s and educational specialist degrees.
The University also offers the Ph.D. in microbiology, the Ed.D. and the Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Policy and Law, the Clinical Doctorate in Physical Therapy and the Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics. For more information about Alabama State University, visit www.alasu.edu.