Thank you to the Prince William County Human Rights Commission for hosting an inspirational Universal Human Rights Day Awards Ceremony on Jan. 15, and for all that you do to ensure fair treatment for everybody who calls this community home. Dolores Huerta served as the keynote speaker for the virtual event. She is the co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association and continues to fight for the rights of the working poor, women, and children.
“When we think that we have been able to put a vehicle on Mars and pinpoint exactly where it’s going to land and yet we see that we are not addressing the basic human rights of the people on our planet,” said Huerta. “We’ve got to step it up. We’ve got to do so much more and start demanding, fighting for, organizing for the basic human rights for people on our planet.”
To this year’s awards recipients, please know that what you do is important, and appreciated. Congratulations on the well-earned recognition, and keep up the great work! Meet this year’s Universal Human Rights Day Awards winners:
- Sharita Rouse, founder of Tummy Yum Yum Candy Gourmet Candy Apples in Manassas, was honored for her work in providing services to the homeless. Rouse dedicated the award to a homeless man she knew who recently died. “I count it as an honor to be amongst many of you. I’m just grateful to God that he has given me the grace to do this,” Rouse said. She asked people to think about keeping “Blessing Bags” with toothbrushes, gloves, hats, and socks in their cars to give to the homeless. “I would just like for you all to be cognizant and think about those who are out in the cold during the wintertime. Those things mean the world to people standing outside with nothing.”
- The Omicron Zeta, or OZS, Sigma Chapter of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., earned an award for its work in turning out the vote in Prince William County through its Souls to Polls Initiative that helped roughly 1,000 voters get to the polls to vote. “The men of Sigma recognize our continuing duty to be a part of the solution,” said Deon Young speaking for the fraternity. “Going into 2022 and beyond the electoral cycle, our membership has worked through our project vote initiative toward registering, educating, and mobilizing our county’s eligible population so that they can use their voice to demand leadership and policies that end the ability of oppression and violence to run rampant in our society.”
- Yaqub Zargarpur, the coordinator of the Afghan Refugee Relief Task Force, was recognized for his work helping the Afghan refugees, who recently came through the area by Zargarpur coordinated doctors, nurses, translators, provided Korans, and arranged Friday prayers. The task force also provided feminine hygiene products, clothing, shoes, diapers, and baby formula. “It truly is a privilege to do what I do, to be a volunteer,” Zargarpur said. “It’s an honor to accept this award, not just as one volunteer, but tens if not hundreds of volunteers who have been working alongside me day and night.”
- The Prince William County Police Department received an award for its “Reimagining Policing: Courageous Conversations Initiative.” The Prince William County Police Department was one of five departments in the state that was called to work on the initiative with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. The initiative’s goals included examining implicit bias, use of force, recruitment, selection, and officer retention. “The impetus for the Courageous Conversations Initiative was on the heels of the murder of George Floyd and we all know what an impact that had on our communities,” said Prince William County Police Chief Peter Newsham. “What we did in these conversations was that we had, on a regular basis with the Police Department, Department of Criminal Justice Services, the University of Virginia and of course leadership from our community, we were able to come up with ideas … to make us a better Police Department.”
- The Phi Lambda, Lambda Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. received an award for its work sponsoring a wide range of humanitarian and educational activities, hosting Thanksgiving turkey giveaways, town cleanups, and distributing Christmas holiday donations. “We would really like to thank the Prince William County Human Rights Commission for the consideration and selection of this award,” said Jacque Nixon representing the fraternity Omega Psi Phi Inc. “One of our mandates is service and we do that … through social action, mentoring, health initiatives, talent hunts, scholarships, and a college endowment for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). And we take that mandate very seriously. As a chapter, we will continue to strive to impact the lives of individuals and families throughout Prince William County.”
- Carried to Full Term won an award providing long-term housing for pregnant and homeless women and providing them with the tools, support, and resources they need to become independent and self-sufficient in the face of abuse, relocation, divorce, abandonment, or aging out of the Foster Care System. “The work is big, it’s deep, it’s dirty and it’s very fulfilling,” said Frances Robin, the director and founder of Carried to Full Term. “Our tiny staff makes it look easy, but we are working so tirelessly to expand and extend services to the greater community. At Carried to Full Term, our goal is to take the burden off the woman and invest in her. We recognize when housing needs are not met, families cannot do the next thing. Mothers cannot do the next thing.”
- Frank Washington and Coalition to Save Historic Thoroughfare won an award for working to protect several cemeteries in Thoroughfare, a community near Haymarket. Developers bought the land and destroyed Scott Cemetery in its development, blocking access to Potter’s Field Cemetery. The thoroughfare was once a vibrant Native- and African American community. Washington educated and mobilized the community and garnered bipartisan support from the Prince William Board of County Supervisors against the threat of development to protect the cemeteries. “Whether lying in their graves or walking upon this earth, each life still matters,” Washington said.
The Human Rights Commission holds its event every year on the Saturday before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Day. Congressman Gerry Connolly reminded the viewers that this year the day fell on King’s birthday. Learn more about the Human Rights Commission.