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HRAD Archive

The Human Rights Awards Dinner, which began decades ago, honors individuals who have made significant contributions to the promotion of human rights. It celebrates the work of volunteers whose efforts impact the support of human rights locally and internationally.

2021 Human Rights Award Dinner
Thursday, June 24, 2021

The 2021 Human Rights Awards Dinner featured the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, U.C. Hastings College of the Law (CGRS) and Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE) as the recipients of the Don & Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Awards. CGRS works at the intersections of gender and migration to protect the fundamental human rights of refugee women, children, LGBTQ+ individuals, and others who flee persecution in their home countries. WAVE unites 160 women's organizations from 46 European countries to end violence against women and children.

Darnella Frazier received a Human Rights Defender Award. Darnella bravely documented the murder of George Floyd. Her quick thinking made it possible to hold the perpetrators accountable, and sparked a worldwide reckoning with police violence.

Volunteer Awards were presented to:

  • Dotty Bieurance and Rhonda Phillips, longtime volunteers who stepped up with hand-addressing during the pandemic;
  • Carrie Brasser, a pro bono attorney who has represented clients, joined our UN advocacy, and helped us pivot to remote advocacy;
  • Scott Smith, a tireless pro bono attorney and mentor to new volunteers;
  • the Immigration Court Observers Leaders Team, a group of volunteers who demonstrated extraordinary loyalty and leadership in the Immigration Court Observation Project;
  • the Stinson Rapid Response Regulation Team, regulatory attorneys who helped stop the Trump administration from gutting the right to seek asylum.

The event was held Thursday, June 24, 2021 virtually. You can watch the livestream here.


2020 Human Rights Awards Dinner
Monday, June 15, 2020

The 2020 Human Rights Awards Dinner featured Lee Gelernt as the keynote speaker and recipient of the Don & Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award. Mr. Gelernt is the Deputy Director of the Immigrants' Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. As a litigator, he has argued groundbreaking cases, including a nationwide challenge to the practice of separating families at the border.

The Moscow Community Center for LGBT+ Initiatives (MCC) received a Special Recognition Award. MCC has implemented unique projects serving LGBT individuals, including legal services, psychosocial care, and art therapy. They sprang into action in 2017 when the anti-gay pogrom began in Chechnya, and have been providing shelter and services for Chechen refugees ever since. The Advocates has been honored to partner with MCC staff and volunteers since 2017.

Kathy Lenzmeier was recognized with The Advocates' first ever Marlene Kayser Volunteer Award. Ms. Lenzmeier, like Marlene, represents the gold standard of excellence in volunteerism, philanthropy, and advocacy. Ms. Lenzmeier has been involved with the Sankhu-Palubari Community School for many years, and dedicated nine years of service on The Advocates' board of directors.

Volunteer Awards were presented to:

  • Veronica Clark, an advocate for women's human rights;
  • Amano Dube, a leader in the Twin Cities Oromo Community and a volunteer interpreter for The Advocates;
  • Joan Kuriansky, a long-time volunteer who has taken the lead on many research projects and traveled with The Advocates to advocate at the United Nations in Geneva;
  • Sarah Musgrave, an active community member who volunteers regularly at The Advocates' reception desk, state fair booth, and handles countless ongoing projects;
  • Elise Overman, an intern turned volunteer who has supported every fundraising event of The Advocates since January 2018

The event was held Monday, June 15, 2020 virtually. You can watch the livestream here.

2019 Human Rights Awards Dinner
Thursday, June 20, 2019

The 2019 Human Rights Awards Dinner featured Professor AndrĂ©s Cediel as the keynote speaker and recipient of the Don & Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award. Professor Cediel is a documentary filmmaker, and we were honored to recognize him for his work shining a light on the human rights violations against some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. 

Volunteer Awards were presented to:

  • Pat Brenna, volunteer auctioneer who has donated her services at the Human Rights Award Dinner for ten years;
  • Judy Corradi, a volunteer who has traveled with us to advocate before the United Nations and served as a front desk volunteer;
  • Alena Levina, a volunteer translator and interpreter who has translated domestic violence and sexual harassment laws for The Advocates to analyze;
  • Char Myers & Steve Woldum, volunteers who support Development at The Advocates in everything from filing to thank you calls to donors;
  • Charles Weed, who designed The Advocates' first website in the 1990s and has maintained it pro bono ever since;
  • Zonta Club of Minneapolis, who selected The Advocates as its beneficiary for two years and created basic needs kits to distribute to refugee and immigrant women receiving legal services from The Advocates;
  • The Somali 92 Team, volunteer attorneys and others who came together to represent 92 Somalis that were subjected to a botched deportation and horrifying conditions aboard an ICE-chartered plane for almost two days.

The event was held Thursday, June 20, 2019 at The Depot in downtown Minneapolis.

2018 Human Rights Awards Dinner
Thursday, June 21, 2018

The 2018 Human Rights Awards Dinner featured Inaugural Victims' Rights Advocate at the United Nations Jane Connors as the keynote speaker and recipient of the Don & Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award. Ms. Connors has had a long and multi-faceted career in human rights advocacy. Prior to her appointment she worked with Amnesty International, OHCHR, and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in New York.

Genoveva Tisheva of the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation was recognized in person with The Advocates' first ever Human Rights Defender Award. Ms. Tisheva has been a leader in the international human rights movement for over twenty years. She has been instrumental in pushing Bulgaria to the forefront as a leader for the region on legal reform related to violence against women.

Volunteer Awards were presented to:

  • Lisa Borden, attorney volunteer who has contributed to multiple projects related to international justice and women's human rights;
  • Karen Evans, a volunteer who has provided ongoing pro bono management assistance and participated in our study advocacy tour and traveled to advocate with the team before the United Nations;
  • Karen Bridges, who works on our Stop Violence Against Women website and assists with international advocacy before the United Nations in Geneva;
  • Gail Irish, a volunteer translator and participant in the Refugee & Immigrant Program case deliberations.

The event was held Thursday, June 21, 2018 at The Depot in downtown Minneapolis.

2017 Human Rights Awards Dinner
Thursday, June 15, 2017

The 2017 Human Rights Awards Dinner featured President and CEO of HIAS Mark Hetfield as the keynote speaker and recipient of the Don & Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award. HIAS is one of the oldest refugee assistance organizations in the nation. Mr. Hatfield has led HIAS' transformation from an organization focused on Jewish immigrants to a global agency assisting refugees of all faiths and ethnicities.

Rep. Ilhan Omar and The Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport Rapid Response Team were presented The Advocates' Special Recognition Awards. Then-State Representative Omar was recognized for her tireless work for refugees, women, and other marginalized people in her district, in Minnesota, and beyond. The MSP Airport Rapid Response team stepped up after the Muslim travel ban, and worked nonstop to train, schedule, and deploy over 300 attorneys at the airport. Together, this spontaneous volunteer effort met every affected international flight arriving at MSP for six weeks.

Genoveva Tisheva of the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation was recognized remotely with The Advocates' first ever Human Rights Defender Award. Ms. Tisheva has been a leader in the international human rights movement for over twenty years. She has been instrumental in pushing Bulgaria to the forefront as a leader for the region on legal reform related to violence against women.

Volunteer Awards were presented to:

  • Karam Law, whose attorneys have directly represented or served as mentors in over 25 cases for clients from more than 10 countries;
  • Sarah Vander Zanden, an executive coach and communications expert who provided pro bono guidance to The Advocates;
  • Gerry Tyrrell, a Senior Social Worker with Hennepin County who volunteered to meet with dozens of LGBT and women's rights groups in Namibia while spending a year there;
  • Yorn Yan David Seng Chor, Executive Director and volunteer at the United Cambodian Association of Minnesota. They provided critical volunteer support to The Advocates in reaching out to potential witnesses for the United Nations/Cambodian criminal tribunal on the Cambodian genocide.

The event was held Thursday, June 15, 2017 at Marriott City Center in downtown Minneapolis.

2016 Human Rights Awards Dinner
Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The 2016 Human Rights Awards Dinner featured United Nations Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns as the keynote speaker and recipient of the Don & Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award. As Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Heyns investigated and exposed some of the world's most egregious human rights violations. He made updating the Minnesota Protocol a priority during his tenure as a special rapporteur.

The Minnesota Protocol is a groundbreaking investigative tool The Advocates for Human Rights developed in the 1980s and the United Nations adopted United Nations in 1991 with the official title, UN Manual on the Effective Prevention of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. The manual, widely known by its original name, the Minnesota Protocol, was the first set of international guidelines for investigating suspicious deaths. Effective investigation is key to establish responsibility and to hold perpetrators accountable, but no international standards had existed that required governments to initiate or conduct investigations of suspected unlawful deaths. In 2015, Mr. Heyns invited The Advocates to help update the Minnesota Protocol with forensic, medical, and other advancements and legal changes that have taken place since the manual's original publication.

Also at the event, David Wippman, dean of the University of Minnesota Law School, was presented The Advocates' Special Recognition Award for his passion for human rights and his work with the Center for New Americans, a collaboration between the law school and The Advocates and others to expand urgently needed legal services for noncitizens, pursue litigation to improve our nation's immigration laws, and support noncitizens in the region through education and community outreach.

Volunteer Awards were presented to:

  • Mary Ellen Alden, attorney volunteer who has fought tirelessly in her representation of asylum seekers;
  • Thomas Dickstein, high school student who traveled to Nepal to connect with students at The Advocates' school in the Kathmandu Valley and who has raised contributions for The Advocates;
  • Gray Plant Mooty Law Firm, its pro bono team has taken on complex refugee and immigration cases involving female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and levirate marriage;
  • Stinson Leonard Street Law Firm and Attorney Hanok Gabisa, submitted a complaint to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights on the Ethiopian government's use of lethal force to respond to peaceful Oromo student protests of Ethiopian government actions;
  • Thomson Reuters' Research Team, attorney volunteers who pore through thousands of UN statements to identify countries that may be receptive to lobbying on women's rights, the death penalty, and LGBTI rights; and
  • Suzanne Turner, coordinator of Dechert Law Firm's pro bono work, is central to finding eager volunteers to help The Advocates. She also traveled with The Advocates twice to the other side of the world to conduct fact-finding and to document how to strengthen Mongolia's response to domestic violence.

The event was held Wednesday, June 1, 2016 at Marriott City Center in downtown Minneapolis.

2015 Human Rights Awards Dinner
Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The 2015 Human Rights Awards Dinner featured Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Sonia Nazario as the keynote speaker. Nazario is noted for her story Enrique's Journey, which describes a Honduran boy's struggle to flee violence in his home country and to find his mother in the United States. It was won more than a dozen awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize for featuring writing, the George Polk Award for International Reporting, and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award's Grand Prize. Expanded into a book, Enrique's Journey became a national bestseller and won three book awards.

Nazario has spent more than 20 years reporting and writing about social issues in the United States, most recently as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Nazario, who grew up in Kansas and Argentina, began her career at the Wall Street Journal. She has been named among the most influential Latinos by Hispanic Business Magazine and a "trendsetter" in 2012 by Hispanic Magazine.

The Advocates' Special Recognition Award was presented to VocalPoint Chorus and to Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL). VocalPoint Chorus, a 70-member auditioned chorus referred to as singers with a cause devoted to social justice, held two concerts in 2015 to benefit The Advocates' work to make a better, safer world for women. CTUL worker-leaders use human rights documentation and peer training to identify human rights abuses, then engage in direct action, litigation, policy advocacy, and partnerships to ensure better working conditions for low-wage immigrant, refugee, and citizens in Minnesota. CTUL's retail cleaning and fast food campaigns have resulted in greater dignity for too-often-invisible workers, and their new Defensores project helps to ensure that workers facing unsafe or unfair conditions can access legal protections.

Volunteer Awards were presented to:

  • Eleni Beyene, Amharic translator and interpreter
  • Elizabeth Cutter, presenter and commentator on domestic violence laws;
  • Mary Diaz, Spanish interpreter for Central American clients;
  • Jorg Pierach, on behalf of Fast Horse, the integrated marketing firm that designed The Advocates' brand and website;
  • Carreen Heegaard, docent conducting human rights tours at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
  • Sophia Leenay, French translator
  • Teresa Mesa, Spanish interpreter and translator of Central American clients
  • Ali Tews, Spanish translator
  • Barbara Weissberger, Spanish interpreter in court for unaccompanied minors and families from Central America

The event was held Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at The Depot in downtown Minneapolis.

2014 Human Rights Awards Dinner
Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The 2014 Human Rights Awards Dinner's keynote speaker was Marilyn Carlson Nelson, who was also presented the 2014 Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award. Carlson Nelson, an extraordinary values-based leader and human rights advocate, is often best known for the success of the Carlson brands. The former Carlson CEO and board chair, she signed the travel industry's International Code of Conduct to end child prostitution, pornography, and trafficking. Carlson Nelson also co-founded the World Childhood Foundation, and she worked tirelessly to defeat the marriage amendment in Minnesota.

The 2014 Special Recognition Award was presented to Chimgee Haltarhuua, a Mongolian immigrant living in Saint Paul, Minnesota, who teaches and performs at Circus Juventas. She founded the circus group Mission Manduhai in 2010. The group travels in Mongolia, staging free performances for nomadic herders to raise awareness about the problem of domestic violence. A survivor of domestic violence, she has assisted The Advocates with its domestic violence work in Mongolia.

The 2014 Volunteer Awards were presented to Mark Petty, Julie Shelton, and Laura Tripiciano.

The event was held June 25, 2014, at the Minneapolis Hilton.