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City Council to Honor Seven Recipients for the Annual Thong Hy Huynh Awards

Post Date:April 27, 2017 1:29 p.m.

The City’s Human Relations Commission annually seeks nominations for the Thong H. Huynh Awards, which are presented as a tribute to Thong Hy Huynh, who was the victim of a racially-motivated stabbing death at Davis High School on May 4, 1983. Mayor Davis states “The Thong Hy Huynh Award honors individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions in addressing or improving civil and human rights issues in the community. The City Council, along with the Human Relations Commission, is honored to recognize groups and individuals with achievements in the areas of human rights, social justice and civil rights. I’m looking forward to honoring this year’s recipients, whose passion and work continue to move us toward bettering the Davis community.”

Recipients in five categories will be recognized for the 2017 Thong Hy Huynh awards at the May 16 City Council meeting, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. All winners of the Thong Hy Huynh Awards are listed on the City’s Perpetual Plaque, which is hung in the Community Chambers building.

The recipients with a description from their nominators are as follows:

Lifetime Achievement: Al Rojas
Al Rojas has been advocating for civil rights in Yolo County for 50 years. He has been a leader in LCLAA, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and has been a regional organizer for the Driscolls boycott. He has been a lead advocate for the Ayotzinapa 43. At nearly 80 years old, Al still spends every ounce of energy advocating for human rights. Al recently helped organize the rally celebrating the release of G.E. the 14 year old Honduran refugee who was unjustly detained in Yolo County Juvenile Detention. Additionally, he has been a fixture in the Labor Movement in Yolo County for a generation. He was a Cofounder of the UFW, marched with Cesar Chavez, ran the tomato picker strikes in the 70’s, and continued his advocacy for immigrants and racial justice. Al Rojas’ work encapsulates a lifetime of organizing, activism and advocacy for the poorest and most marginalized members of our community.

Civil Rights Advocacy: Yolo Interfaith Immigration Network (YIIN)
The Yolo Interfaith Immigration Network is a non-profit organization that was formed in 2008. They are a group of volunteers from different faith organizations serving and advocating for immigrants in Yolo County.

When they first formed, their motive was to help and advocate for the helpless in migrant centers in Yolo County as well as aid teenagers who have no known relatives and were being deported. The scope of the organization expanded over time to help all immigrants with their legal and economic situations.

YIIN’s website states that they are a small organization who is committed to seeking opportunities to work with others to make our community a place where all are welcome, and our diversity is celebrated.

Excellence in Community Involvement: ACME Theater Company
ACME Theatre Company is a non-profit community theatre group for young artists that are high school age. Its mission is to present plays of high literary quality while providing opportunities for young people to learn various acting and technical skills.

Acme Theatre Company is an organization run entirely by the young people themselves under the direction of a small cadre of adult mentors. In addition to learning acting and technical skills Acme presents young minds with thought provoking theater. Part of its mission is being committed to include in its repertoire, theatre which promotes universal understanding and basic human rights. In presenting these pieces the youth involved are presented with speakers and asked to explore in depth the topics addressed in the plays they present. This gives the company a fully rounded understanding of the emotions and struggles presented.

Excellence in Community Involvement: Intercambio
Intercambio is a language and cultural exchange program designed and organized in 2011 by two Marguerite Montgomery Elementary School (MME) parents, Kate Snow and Miriam Bormann, in partnership with UC Davis Linguistics Professor Julia Menard-Warwick to help grow a vibrant and thriving bilingual community very much unique to the city of Davis.

The program aims to increase the language and literacy skills of parents both in English and Spanish, as well as to break down the barriers of communication between participants from different socioeconomic and language backgrounds with connections to MME. Intercambio was designed to meet the needs of the unique parent population at MME which includes large numbers of primarily low-income native Spanish speakers, as well as English speaking parents, who are primarily middle class. The program benefits from the support of UC Davis graduate students, undergraduates, and professors who make up the majority of the program’s teachers.

Overall, Intercambio is perhaps the only program in the city of Davis which offers a truly bilingual, collaborative space, where English-speaking and Spanish-speaking parents, students, professionals and other community members with varied cultural profiles come together with curiosity for the other. In this space, all members are welcome, for all members have much to contribute to the program’s vision and mission through their experience as diverse members of our community.

Young Humanitarian: Jesse Zablotsky and Alyse Lodigiani
Activism in youth is rare find. At an age when navigating the challenges of transitioning from childhood to adulthood can be all consuming and fraught with distractions and confusion, the ability to see beyond oneself should be recognized.

Jesse Zablotsky and Alyse Lodigiani have taken up the monumental task of starting an LGBT+ youth center in Davis. The need for a center in Davis has been a longstanding one.

Jesse and Alyse see a center that would provide a safe, affirming and supportive environment with a special focus on youth who are questioning their sexuality and developing their personal identity and support vulnerable and homeless LGBT youth to improve their health, economic status, self‐esteem and self‐sufficiency for making positive life choices with the following programs.

Given the Fact that Jesse and Alyse are high school students, the reality is that this center may not come to fruition until after their tenure in high school. This has not been a deterrent. In fact the clear thought out planning and deep thinking for what this center will be takes into account the importance of providing a legacy for future LGBT+ youth.

Public Servant of the Year: Jamie Elliott
Public Servant of the Year is awarded to a local public servant who has displayed exceptional interpersonal skills under challenging circumstances. These efforts have promoted positive human relations in our multicultural and diverse community.

For more than nearly 35 years Jamie Elliot has coordinated the Alternative Recreation program through the City of Davis. This program provides people with disabilities the opportunity to participate in leisure activities that enhance the quality of life by opening access to many experiences that most of the greater population takes for granted. The importance of advocating for this access is paramount for Jamie, as is evident in the passion and commitment she brings to the interactions she has with the people that sign up for alt rec activities. Jamie plans activities with direct input from the participants making sure all voices are heard. She understands that the meaning of social justice is providing access to opportunity for all. Indeed in the area of social justice ableism is often bottom of the rung because of the challenges of agency inherent in this population. Her advocacy for people with disabilities does not end at the end of her work day. She is always available and invested in finding ways to extend dignity and inclusion to this segment of our community that is often overlooked. In a field where the turnover rate of qualified staff is extremely high Jamie perseveres and shines a light on what true public service should look like.

For more information, please contact Carrie Dyer at 530-747-5863 or cdyer@cityofdavis.org

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