Local Human Rights Commission of the Year
City of Columbia Commission on Human Rights
Since its inception in 1974, the City of Columbia Human Rights Commission (HRC) has proactively advocated for the advancement of human rights as a means to improve the quality of life for all. The ordinances enforced by the HRC prohibit discrimination against all protected categories covered under state law and reach even further to shield persons from discrimination based on sexual orientation (since 1992) and gender identity (since 2011). Along with its strong record of investigating allegations of violations, the HRC facilitates early resolution of disputes through a dynamic mediation program in partnership with the University of Missouri School of Law. The extraordinary efforts made this year by the HRC to improve human relations in the community are many and evident — and all the more deserving of congratulations because the Commission’s good work was carried out by just seven volunteer members and one City of Columbia attorney. These strides include: providing feedback and content for a new local fair housing website, raising awareness about service animal etiquette, and receiving Partnership Initiative funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for a free Fair Housing Symposium co-sponsored by the Missouri Commission on Human Rights. The HRC’s devotion to public education was brought to life through its involvement in the Columbia Values Diversity Celebration, a presentation on race equality issues by television judge Glenda Hatchett, a training awareness program on gender neutral bathrooms, and an open discussion with Tibetan Monk Champa Lhunpo on the human rights crisis in Tibet. Always seeking creative ways to reach new audiences with civil rights messaging, the HRC assisted in a theatrical play promoting mutual respect and understanding of the challenges faced by immigrants and a documentary screening and panel discussion of the barriers faced by children of undocumented immigrants. The devotion of the City of Columbia Human Rights Commission reminds us of our collective responsibility to promote and protect the rights and dignity of all people.
Judge Arnold Krekel Trailblazer Award
Megan Meier Foundation, St. Charles, Missouri
On October 16, 2006, Tina Meier’s life took a devastating turn when her thirteen-year-old daughter, Megan Taylor Meier, took her own life, a tragedy prompted by cyberbullying. In memory of her daughter, Ms. Meier founded the Megan Meier Foundation to create awareness and promote positive change to children, parents, and educators in response to bullying and cyberbullying in the daily environment of children. Through this forum and in memory of Megan, Ms. Meier has become an internationally recognized expert on bullying, cyberbullying, internet safety, conflict resolution, the roles of parents and educators, sexting, and suicide awareness and prevention. Ms. Meier spreads the Foundation’s message through national and international media appearances, such as network television stations, radio, newsmagazines, and syndicated talk shows. She accepted a Presidential invitation to attend the 2011 White House Anti-Bullying Conference presented at the U.S. Department of Education’s Safe and Drug Free Schools National Conference in Washington, D.C., and she served as a consultant during the production of the ABC Family movie, Cyberbully. At the time of Megan’s death, Missouri did not have laws in place to prosecute a cyberbully. Ms. Meier worked closely with Senator Scott Rupp and Governor Matt Blunt’s Internet Task Force for the State of Missouri to help pass Senate Bill 818, made law on August 28, 2008; Ms. Meier’s perseverance and dedication to this important cause was instrumental in this amendment to the harassment and stalking laws, which now include electronic communication.
Lucile Bluford Lifetime Achievement Award
Former Chair, Missouri Commission on Human Rights
Alvin Carter’s dedication to the advancement of equality and civil rights exemplifies the spirit of change and hope represented by International Human Rights Day. His commitment to state civil service is deep; he is a retired Regional Coordinator for the Department of Economic Development and former Equal Employment Officer of the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. For nearly eight years he served as the Chair of the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR), a demanding volunteer appointment, and from that top position offered his valued counsel and wielded his considerable influence to promote the high-minded agenda of MCHR: to enforce the laws that prohibit discrimination in our state. While at the helm of the Commission, Mr. Carter spearheaded numerous innovative initiatives, such as the MCHR Training Institute, which expanded and enhanced the Commission’s education and outreach efforts. Recognizing that education is perhaps the single-most effective means to preventing discrimination, MCHR has trained thousands of Missourians through this program. With Mr. Carter’s support and encouragement, MCHR undertook its largest-scale public information campaign ever, the Show-Me Fair Housing Awareness Project, a massive effort to educate Missourians about state and federal fair housing laws, a three-year initiative funded by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Education and Outreach Initiative grants. Mr. Carter, always challenging MCHR to reach higher, urged the agency to find new funding sources to support loftier goals, and as a result, MCHR was awarded, through competitive grants, almost one million dollars in additional federal funds, which greatly increased the agency’s capacity to further its mission. Through this new programming, MCHR has cultivated numerous relationships in the human rights community statewide – organizations serving homeless, elderly, and veterans; advocates for persons with disabilities; local and other governmental jurisdictions; municipal human rights commissions; and so many more doing the critical work of standing up for equality. Many of these partners are joined together today to celebrate International Human Rights Day, and we take this opportunity to collectively honor Mr. Carter for his excellent leadership, his friendship, his vision for a better and more just world, and his extensive efforts to make these high ideals a reality in our great state.