The recipients of the annual Thong Hy Huynh awards — recognizing significant contributions in addressing, improving and resolving civil and human rights issues in the city of Davis — will receive their awards at 6:30 p.m. today at the City Council meeting. A simple reception will follow the awards ceremony.
All winners of the Thong Hy Huynh Awards are listed on the city’s perpetual plaque, which is kept in the Community Chambers building. The city’s Human Relations Commission annually seeks nominations for the awards, a tribute to Thong Hy Huynh, who was stabbed to death in a racially motivated fight on the Davis High School campus on May 4, 1983.
The categories and recipients are as follows:
* Lifetime Achievement: Cathy Speck
Speck has long been a model of a civil rights and human relations activist. She led a lesbian coming-out group at UC Davis and then facilitated the UCD Lesbian Support group for 10 years, beginning in 1990. She was a volunteer on the Davis Civil Rights Ordinance; against Propositions 22 and 8.
Her local fame led to an interview with students in Davis High School’s well-known Race and Social Justice class. Subsequently, she was asked to testify to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to repeal the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. Her testimony was one of five presented to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately repealed DOMA.
Her efforts in addressing human rights and dealing with issues of social justice extend beyond gay rights issues. Speck, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or “Lou Gehrig’s disease”), has used her condition to raise awareness for those who suffer and to break down barriers that people feel when seeing someone in a wheelchair or walker.
Speck says, “I encourage people to bring death and dying out of the closet. When we learn to embrace dying as part of our lives, we enhance the sweetness of the moments in our lives. I can see the changes in our community. When people help others, everyone feels better.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award is given for significant civil rights efforts over a long period of time while improving the quality of life in Davis. Speck was nominated by Shelly Bailes and Ellen Pontac.
* Excellence in Community Involvement: The Rev. Bill Habicht of Davis Community Church
The Rev. Bill Habicht’s excellence in community involvement permeates his creative social justice work as a teaching elder/pastor for children, youth and laity/outreach ministries. He is involved with the Youth Leadership Institute, the Interfaith Rotating Winter Shelter and Mosaic Tea and Coffee. He also has participated in the Restorative Justice Forum and connected Davis Community Church’s Social Justice Committee with UCD Get on the Bus Committee to work together to support prison families.
Recipients of this award are selected based on a record of significant efforts in promoting and practicing equal opportunity, positive human relations and civil rights in Davis. Habicht and Davis Community Church were nominated by Diane Evans.
* Civil Rights Advocacy: Bill Calhoun
William “Bill” Calhoun has spent most of his life trying to improve both civil and human rights. In 1962 in St. Louis, he helped found a self-help, nonprofit organization called HELP — Home, Education, Leadership, Preparation. After moving to Davis in 1966, he became a math teacher and was the first certified minority teacher in Davis. He has volunteered in the community in a variety of capacities: member of the former Independent Davis Human Relations Council, worked with the Measure A Committee for the City (related to apartheid in South Africa), member of the City Affirmative Action Committee, DJUSD Affirmative Action Advisory Committee, City’s Personnel Board and DJUSD Strategic Planning Committee.
The Civil Rights Advocacy Award is given for significant efforts and achievement in speaking on behalf of, and giving voice to, the disadvantaged and disempowered; and promoting positive human relations, civil rights, cultural awareness or peaceful means of conflict resolution. Bill Calhoun was nominated by Jody Zewe.
* Public Servant of the Year: Police Chief Landy Black
Black took over as chief of the Davis Police Department in the spring of 2007. At the time, the department was suffering from low morale and lack of trust by the community. Black helped restore the confidence in the department in a number of ways. The result is that, in conjunction with the city’s police ombudsman, when there are complaints, they are handled professionally, they are taken seriously and when the complaints have been substantiated, the department has been forthright in dealing with them.
Black has been accessible in the community and worked hard to help bolster the department’s professional reputation. His efforts have impacted human relations in helping to reduce community strife between police and people of color. A recent police-community mediation session has further added to those efforts and Black has been supportive of the Neighborhood Court and other forms of community outreach.
This award is for a local public servant who has displayed exceptional interpersonal skills under challenging circumstances, resulting in effective conflict resolution or intervention and promoting positive human relations in Davis. Black was nominated by Human Relations Commissioner David Greenwald.