2015 Human Relations Award Honorees
CASA AZAFRÁN - Peggy Steine Memorial Award for Human Rights Collaboration
The dream of two Conexión Americas co-founders, Jose Gonzales and Renata Soto, Casa Azafrán is a community center standing at the gateway to Nashville's international district. It is a place where Nashville's diverse community comes together on a daily basis: Muslims, African-Americans, native Nashvillians, Latinos, Africans, and more. It is where people who need legal, medical, and economic assistance come and also where entrepreneurs build businesses, where children take dance classes, and where activists join hands to make plans.
On site, the following organizations have offices: American Center for Outreach, American Muslim Advisory Council, Conexión Americas, Family and Children's Services, Financial Empowerment Center, Global Education Center, Justice for Our Neighbors, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and the United Neighborhood Health Services.
The Reverend Mary Katherine “Kaki” Friskics-Warren
The Reverend Mary Katherine “Kaki” Friskics-Warren has been promoting the dignity and rights of people struggling on society’s margins ever since she began visiting inmates on Tennessee’s Death Row just weeks after moving to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt Divinity School in 1981.
During the past decade Kaki has focused her energies primarily on immigrant rights. Most notable perhaps has been her work with the Nashville chapter of Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON), an organization that engages in legal advocacy for undocumented immigrant victims of crimes ranging from human trafficking to domestic violence. Through JFON Kaki has also helped create better futures for undocumented young people by optimizing the provisions of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama administration’s 2012 administrative action extending renewable work permits and protection from deportation to millions of adolescents and teenagers in this country.
She was the founding director of both Reconciliation, a local nonprofit that serves the families of prison inmates, and Renewal House, a residential recovery community that seeks to preserve the bonds between women struggling with addiction and their children. Kaki has also served on the board of the Housing Fund and the Nashville Coalition for the Homeless, where she has advocated for the creation and preservation of affordable housing amid widespread gentrification and the displacement of many long-time residents.
Kaki is the Executive Director of the Dan and Margaret Maddox Charitable Fund. She and Bill, her husband of 30 years, have two sons, Marshall and Kevin, as well as nine “grandchildren.”
A life-long Nashvillian, Ronnie has served four terms as Councilman At-Large and was once elected Vice Mayor. His public service and volunteer work has been marked by leadership focused on human justice and families and youth.
In 1992, he led the effort to ensure equitable awarding of Metro contracts and in 1994, sponsored the restoration of the Metro Human Relations Commission and the relocation of General Hospital to Hubbard/Meharry. While Vice Mayor, he was known for appointing minorities and women to leadership. In addition, he was the first official to invite an Imam to deliver the Council’s opening prayer.
Ronnie has stood for an open, welcoming community through his opposition to the mistreatment of undocumented immigrants; sponsorship of the Compassionate Cities Resolution and, most prominently, his sole sponsorship and leadership in passing the Council’s rejection of the English Only amendment in 2008. Long a supporter of the GLBT community, he was a key co-sponsor of both Metro’s anti-discrimination policy’s extension to include gender identity and sexual orientation and to apply to Metro contractors, as well as the recent Metro Partner Benefits ordinance.
A native of Kurdistan who came to the U.S. with her family in 1991, Remziya has been a community organizer who has spoken movingly to diverse audiences about Kurdistan, her experience as a refugee and an American Muslim woman.
Remziya was a founding participant in Circle of Friends, the Jewish-Muslim study group that preceded Family of Abraham. She serves on the COLLAGE committee for the Metro Human Relations Commission (MHRC) Support Fund, and has served on the MHRC itself. She was recognized as one of the Nashville Scene’s “Nashvillians of the Year” for her work in Nashville’s immigrant communities, and her organizing and advocacy were highlighted in the 2011 New York Times article, “The 9/11 Decade: Young Muslims Coming of Age.” She was awarded the 2011 Rising Advocate Award for the Tennessee Human Rights Day Celebration. In 2012, she was voted one of the top inspirational Muslim women in the United States by MBMuslima’s 40 under 40, a leading Muslim magazine.
In 2013, she was honored by the ACLU of Tennessee with the Benjamin S. Pressnell Bill of Rights Award and was named one of 13 Tennessee Newsmakers to Watch by The Tennessean and one of 13 Progressive Faith Leaders to Watch by the Center for American Progress.