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Human Rights For All!
Youth activism inspires worldwide change. Introducing Reebok’s 2021 Human Rights Award Finalists.
Human rights for all, not some. That’s what the Reebok Human Rights Awards celebrate. After 14 years, in partnership with Alabama State University and the ACLU, Reebok is relaunching the Reebok Human Rights Awards honoring the work of youth activists standing up for human rights and dismantling systemic racism. While much has changed since the 1988 inception of the awards, the mission behind it remains focused on upholding the rights of every individual across the globe.
Today, Reebok is hosting a virtual Human Rights Awards Summit, spotlighting the exceptional nominees, winners and their organizations. The three winners of the award are given $100,000 from the Reebok Foundation to further their efforts in advocating for a more just world. Read on to learn more about the three awardees and their causes.
MEET THE 2021 AWARDEES
EVA MARIA LEWIS, CHICAGO
Eva Maria Lewis started Free Root Operation as a love letter towards the South Side, Chicago community she grew up in. After seeing the challenges that come with growing up in poverty firsthand, Lewis decided to take matters into her own hands. “When I first started doing this work at 16 years old, I just wanted to make a difference. I saw how different the neighborhoods on the north side of Chicago looked from mine, and I thought it was unfair. I wanted that sort of sustainability for my community, and over time I found myself working toward that.”
Poverty introduces systemic barriers to communities, and Lewis is determined to leave a positive impact on hers. “Making a difference in my community feels fulfilling because I have a stake here. The work I do benefits me, my neighbors, and those who will come after us. My community grounds me, and my community shaped who I am.”
Referring to herself as a socio-cultural architect, Lewis understands the work that is still to be done. “My goal is that FRO builds structures that perpetuate mass sustainability and freedom. My hope is that we have an impact that permeates the spirit to the core. I want FRO to build structures that help us thrive, help us to re-imagine what our societies can look like outside of the effects of colonialism, and help people understand that by existing they deserve happiness and health.”
HERNÁN CARVENTE-MARTINEZ, BROOKLYN
Healing Ninjas founder Hernán Carvente-Martinez dedicates himself to ensuring the rights and well-being of minority youths going through an exploitative justice system. Paving the way for youth leaders through his activism, Carvente-Martinez created Healing Ninjas. “My work has centered around youth leadership, ending the youth prison model, and pushing for solutions and resources that our communities need to heal from the effects of mass incarceration. I have consistently asked communities all over the country the same question: ‘What would a world without prisons look like?’ The answers have never asked for more programs in prisons but instead have asked for more support that is community-rooted and actively builds the economic, social, and basic supports that young people and communities need to thrive without systems.”
After experiencing incarceration as a teenager, Carvente-Martinez knew he wanted to provide help and inspire change in others facing similar circumstances. “When I came out of prison nine years ago, I did not think that I would ever be where I am today. To be able to do work to support the leadership development of young people impacted by the justice system and help communities imagine a world without prisons has been the most rewarding and humbling experience of my life.”
Brooklyn based Healing Ninjas seeks to ensure that proper mental healthcare and healing are accessible to the communities that need them most. “I wanted to create a mental health solution that could also be self-sustainable and point to resources that communities needed beyond just the traditional mental health solutions like therapy and medication. I wanted to make Mental Health and healing accessible to everyday people including those impacted by mass incarceration.”
LATONYA MYERS, PHILADELPHIA
LaTonya Myers is on a mission to make a positive impact in her Philadelphia community and beyond. After experiencing incarceration herself, Myers noticed the lack of resources available to help people successfully reenter society post-incarceration and founded Above All Odds. “Tens of thousands of people return to Philadelphia communities from jails and prisons each year — I was once one of those people. Once I was finally free of the restrictions and restraints of the criminal systems, I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to helping others.”
As a mentor and advocate, Myers also invests time into providing LGBTQIA and African American youth with the support and resources they need to succeed. “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 and I started my organization, Above All Odds, to do just that."
Her work with Above All Odds and The Defender Association of Philadelphia has improved the lives of many and she’s determined to continue her advocacy. “I am incredibly grateful for, and humbled by, Reebok, ACLU National and Alabama State University’s recognition of my work and life’s experiences by awarding me the Reebok Human rights Award. I am eager to continue to elevate the lives of those impacted by systems of oppression and celebrate the successes of our community members as they thrive ABOVE ALL ODDS.”
Ensuring human rights for all is a worldwide effort and standing up for what is right is essential on any scale. Since the Human Rights Awards inception in 1988, “The mission of this program has been to elevate the positive change led by those activists whose work is focused on upholding human rights” says Reebok Senior Archive manager Erin Narloch. “We want individuals, communities, and corporations to be inspired to act, in order to play our collective part and be the change we want to see in the world.”
We can’t do this alone, so let’s do this together.