By Godfrey Lee
The Marin County Human Rights Commission presented Marin Luther King, Jr. Awards to honor individuals who have actively helped in their communities, last Thursday, Jan. 24, at Four Points Sheraton in San Rafael.
The keynote speech was presented by Andrea Shorter, an advocate for racial, gender and LGBT equality who has been working for social justice for the past 25 years. She talked about Bayard Rustin, an African American activist, who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and was committed to the principles of non-violence and social justice.
Rustin was a key organizer of the March in Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.
But he is relatively unknown by the public, she said. Most activists who are dedicated to social justice, civil and human rights are not well known because, “They are most of us,” Shorter said.
We may not become famous and see our names up on the marquee, but it is worth the effort to share our knowledge, spirit, and values, and being committed to those values that can make a difference, said Shorter.
“There is a belief that all people are one. We can express out love through our religion, but we also need to do activism, (which is) our legacy. That activism is really ultimately about love,” she said.
Marin County Human Rights Commissioners who presented the awards were Aref Ahmadia (Chairman), Raphael Durr, Andrew Marshall, Shelly Scott, Melanie Nathan, Arlene Reiss, and Juliet Schiller.
One award winner was Marna Cohen, who at age 91 years old has been a civil rights activist since 1963. The recipient of the Lifetime Social Justice Award, she has been active with the Marin Human Rights Commission for the past 10 years.
Humanitarian Awards and Certificates of Recognition was given to: Juanita Edwards, student at Dominican University who has been active in the YMCA and Marin AIDS Project; Ericka Omena Erickson, associate director of Marin Grassroots Leadership; Rev. Jan Heglund, chaplain of the F.B.I. and San Rafael police; Farah Muhsin Al-Mousawi, student at Dominican University and an administrative assistant at Citizen’s Reach Out; Florencia Parada-Schweninger, community outreach manager for Parent Services Project; Penny Noble, volunteer tutor and mentor for second-grade English language learners in San Rafael; and Forrest B. Murray, Jr., founder of Blessings Food Ministry in San Rafael.
The following high school seniors received Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Awards:
Kathryn Bainbridge, San Rafael High School and volunteer at Meals on Wheels; Nishtha Chhabra, Terra Linda High School and a leader in Marin County Youth Court; Early Cobb, III, Tamalpais High School and volunteer at Hannah Project in Marin City;
Kenia Gongora, San Rafael High School and volunteer at Canal Alliance in San Rafael; Bryan Mazariegos, Terra Linda High School and volunteer at Canal Alliance Youth Scholarship Program; Monica Rivera, San Rafael High School, volunteer at the Canal Alliance Youth Scholarship Program; Ivan Shaw, Redwood High School and advocate for the LGBT youth.
Two people who received awards but were not present were Marcelyn Smith and Andrew Cresalia.