SMU to honor global and local human rights champions with inaugural ‘Triumph of the Spirit’ awards Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014

Denise Gee

SMU to honor global and local human rights champions with inaugural ‘Triumph of the Spirit’ awards Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014

Eliana Elias

Eliana Elias

Peruvian champion of indigenous women’s rights Eliana Elias and global-minded local educator Bhavani Parpia will be honored at SMU Wednesday, Nov. 12 as the first two recipients of Embrey Human Rights Program Triumph of the Spirit Awards. The awards carry a combined $30,000 in funding for the recipients made possible by an anonymous supporter of SMU’s undergraduate human rights program.

The inaugural Triumph of the Spirit event will include a 7 p.m. dinner in the Martha Proctor Mack Grand Ballroom and 6 p.m. courtyard reception. The evening will feature interviews with Elias, Parpia and other human rights leaders, a mix of music and spoken-word performances and mixed-media art by past and present Embrey Human Rights Program students.

Bhavani Parpia

Bhavani Parpia

Reserved tables and individual tickets for the event are available at various sponsorship levels. For details, visit SMU’s Triumph of the Spirit ticketing page, call 214-768-3241 or contact Bradley Klein.

The Triumph of the Spirit Awards aim to “reward people doing great work for others, sometimes at great risk to themselves,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin. “The awards represent a microcosm of life-changing work being done locally and around the world on issues affecting everyone. The awards also are meant to give us all hope that change can be made even by small steps of awareness and action.”

Elias and Parpia were selected for Triumph of the Spirit Awards from among several dozen human rights defenders nominated for providing selfless work on behalf of individuals and communities. The award selection committee, comprised of 19 SMU faculty and staff members, University alumni and regional community leaders and activists, chose Elias and Parpia for work best exemplifying the missions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Embrey Human Rights Program.

Global Award/$25,000 recipient: Eliana Elias

Eliana Elias has worked more than two decades in the Peruvian Amazon and other rural areas to engage and empower indigenous women and activists about their human rights.

As an expert in intercultural communications for social change, Elias has helped hundreds of non-governmental organizations and indigenous groups develop ways to strengthen leadership, education, health and conservation initiatives.

In 1998, Elias co-founded Minga Peru, an award-winning model geared to improving communication, gender equity and social change. Since then her work has been recognized and rewarded by groups including the Clinton School for Public Service in Arkansas, the Global Philanthropy Forum, Funders without Borders, Family Funders and Funders for Human Rights.

Regional Dallas Award/$5,000 recipient: Bhavani Parpia

Montessori teacher Bhavani Parpia is founder of the educational nonprofit ConnecTeach, helping underserved communities in South Asia and the Middle East improve the quality of education for hundreds of thousands of children one teacher at a time.

Parpia also serves as district world languages coordinator for the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District (HEB ISD), where she develops and oversees Arabic, Chinese and Hindi programs.

Before joining HEB ISD, Parpia founded the Primary School at North Hills Preparatory in Irving. Under her leadership, North Hills was ranked 13th-best performing school in the United States, and in 2013 she received the World Affairs Council International Educator of the Year award.

Written by Denise Gee

> Read the full story from SMU News

October 9, 2014|Calendar Highlights, News|

SMU experts join KERA for Freedom Summer 50th anniversary film preview & panel discussion Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Freedom Riders Julia Aaron and David Dennis

Julia Aaron, left, and David Dennis participated in a Freedom Ride from from Montgomery, Alabama, to Jackson, Mississippi in 1961. The Freedom Riders paved the way for Freedom Summer student volunteers. Photo credit: Paul Schutzer via ‘Freedom Riders’ c/o PBS

During the summer of 1964, more than 700 student volunteers joined with thousands of organizers and local African Americans to register new voters in Mississippi.

The violence that followed included the murders of three civil rights workers and the burning of dozens of churches, homes and community centers. Public outrage against these acts helped spur the U.S. Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In honor of Freedom Summer’s 50th anniversary, two SMU experts will join a former student activist and UNT law professor for KERA’s Freedom Summer Community Screening and Panel Discussion.

The screening and discussion take place 6:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 17, 2014 in KERA’s Community Room, 3000 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas. Admission is free; advance registration is required by 5:30 p.m. on the day. For details, contact engage@kera.org.

The event – which includes a preview of the June 24 PBS show “Voices of Freedom Summer” – is sponsored by KERA and the Embrey Family Foundation/SMU Embrey Human Rights Program with support from the South Dallas Cultural Center and the Dallas Faces Race think-tank.

“The racist issues civil rights activists confronted, primarily to ensure voting rights, aren’t just in the pages of history. They’re deeply entrenched to this day, but perhaps not as overtly visible,” says SMU Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin, event moderator.

Featured panelists include:

Ernie McMillan, a Dallas native and former member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Student Congress On Racial Equality (SCORE). McMillan was an integral part of Texas-based civil rights demonstrations that, although often successful, led to his imprisonment for more than three years.

Dennis Simon, SMU’s Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor of political science in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences and organizer of SMU’s Civil Rights Pilgrimage, now in its 10th year.

Cheryl Brown Wattley, a University of North Texas law professor who spent more than 21 years in private practice, primarily as a criminal defense attorney and civil rights litigator. At UNT she is director of Experiential Education and teach courses in professional skills, criminal law, and professionalism.

Written by Denise Gee

> Read the full story at SMU News

June 16, 2014|Calendar Highlights, News|

SMU celebrates human rights heroes and the anniversary of its Civil Rights Pilgrimage on Thursday, April 10, 2014

Jerry Mitchell and Joanne Bland

Civil rights icons Jerry Mitchell and Joanne Bland hold a conversation at SMU as part of the University’s 10th anniversary celebration of its Civil Rights Pilgrimage program. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 10 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater.

SMU celebrates civil and human rights at two events on Thursday, April 10 – awarding the Robert O. Cooper Peace and Justice Fellowship to a veteran of the civil rights movement and the William K. McElvaney Peace and Justice Award to an SMU student, as well as marking the 10th anniversary of the University’s annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage (CRP).

The CRP anniversary celebration begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater. The program, which is free and open to the public, will feature a conversation between civil rights activist and “Bloody Sunday” survivor Joanne Bland and Jackson (Mississippi) Clarion-Ledger investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell. Mitchell’s work has been instrumental in the cold-case convictions of men responsible for some of the most heinous crimes of the civil rights era, including the assassination of NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers in 1963 and the firebombing death of NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer in 1966.

Earlier in the day, Bland received the Robert O. Cooper Peace and Justice Fellowship at an event hosted by SMU’s Office of the Chaplain. At the same ceremony, SMU student Melissa Maguire received the William K. McElvaney Peace and Justice Award.

Bland has been actively involved in the civil rights movement since 1961, when as an 8-year-old child she attended a voting rights meeting presided over by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. She joined other children and teenagers in the civil rights movement as a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. She was only 11 on March 7, 1965, when she was severely beaten and driven back across the Edmund Pettus Bridge by police determined to stop a group making a voting rights march from Selma to the state capital in Montgomery.

Bland is co-founder and director of the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma, and is well known to SMU civil rights pilgrims who meet with her as they travel across the south every spring to learn about the tragedies and triumphs of the American civil rights movement. An Army veteran, Bland has told her personal story at conferences and workshops across the country, including at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Melissa Maguire

Melissa Maguire

Melissa Maguire received the McElvaney Award for her personal commitment and leadership to the causes of human rights, human welfare and social justice. She was a student coordinator for the 2014 SMU Civil Rights Pilgrimage, co-chaired the presentation of The Vagina Monologues in February by SMU’s Women’s Interest Network, and has travelled to Holocaust sites in Poland with SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program.

Maguire is an SMU senior majoring in English, Spanish and human rights with minors in women and gender studies, history and psychology. She is a member of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, the Women’s Interest Network and Order of Omega. Upon graduation, Maguire plans to enter the non-profit sector.

Written by Denise Gee

> Read the full story from SMU News

April 10, 2014|Calendar Highlights, News|

FAA Deputy Administrator Michael G. Whitaker to deliver keynote at 2014 SMU Air Law Symposium, April 3-4

2014 SMU Air Law SymposiumFederal Aviation Administration Deputy Administrator Michael G. Whitaker will be keynote speaker at the 48th annual SMU Air Law Symposium sponsored by the University’s Dedman School of Law and Journal of Air Law and Commerce. The two-day event will be at the Omni Mandalay Hotel Las Colinas.

More than 500 aviation lawyers and industry experts are expected to attend the symposium, the world’s oldest and largest annual aviation law conference.

Discussions on how current issues are changing the aviation landscape will include:

  • Recent Developments in Aviation Law
    Jared L. Watkins, Kreindler & Kreindler LLP
    Thursday, 8:45 a.m.
  • Delivering the Benefits of NextGen Now
    Michael G. Whitaker, FAA
    Thursday, 1:05 p.m.
  • Drones: The Good, the Bad, and What About the Ethics?
    Elaine D. Solomon, Blank Rome LLP
    Thursday, 3:25 p.m.
  • Recent Developments in Professional Responsibility: 10 Ethics Opinions in 30 Minutes
    William J. Bridge, SMU Dedman School of Law
    Friday, 1:55 p.m.

For a complete schedule and registration details, visit the SMU Law Review website. For more information, call (214) 768-2570.

Written by Denise Gee

April 2, 2014|Calendar Highlights, News|

Embrey Human Rights Program seeks nominees for new award

SMU's Embrey Human Rights Program graphicSMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program will present its first Triumph of the Spirit Award and $25,000 to a person who has dedicated his or her life to social justice and human rights issues on a local, national or global scale. A related award and $5,000 will go to a human rights defender in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.

“The Triumph of the Spirit Award is meant to serve as a symbol of hope in the continued struggle for human rights,” says Embrey Human Rights Program Director Rick Halperin.

Award winners must exemplify the missions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Embrey Human Rights Program, says Halperin, adding, “Often these human rights defenders are working against tremendous odds and at grave personal risk.”

The deadline to submit Triumph of the Spirit nominations is Monday, March 3. Winners will be announced Tuesday, July 1 and honored at a fall reception.

> Read more about the Triumph of the Spirit award and make a nomination online

SMU is the first university in the South and the only one west of Ohio to offer a Bachelor of Arts in human rights. Approved in 2011 by the SMU Board of Trustees, the academic degree was offered five years after the creation of the Embrey Human Rights Program in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

For more details about the Triumph of the Spirit Award, contact Bradley Klein, assistant director of the Embrey Human Rights Program, 214-768-3241.

Written by Denise Gee

> Visit SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program homepage

February 13, 2014|News, Save the Date|
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