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County honors community leaders for contributions to diversity, inclusion

HRC awards ceremony
Posted at 8:27 PM, Dec 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-10 23:27:39-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Friday, the County of San Diego Leon L. Williams Human Relations Commission held its inaugural awards ceremony honoring people for their contributions to the region's diversity and inclusion.

Among the honorees was Supervisor Nora Vargas for speaking out against hate comments during a November board meeting.

"What I did was really the right thing to do, and I'm getting really emotional because you are my people," said Vargas after accepting the Chair Leadership Award.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County's Public Health Officer, also received the Chair Leadership Award for her continuous work leading the region through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nedy Velazquez was one of the Youth Award recipients for her work at the state and national levels on immigrants' rights.

"We are a border region, so many undocumented immigrants who are living here in fear, and I just had to do something about that," said Velazquez.

As a first-generation immigrant and DACA recipient, Velazquez's advocacy focuses on organizing youth to lobby for pathways to citizenship.

"Many times, young people are affected by things that older people decide that don't pertain to us, and so we need to be at the table," she said.

Another Youth Award was presented to Evan Johnson, a young nonbinary adult, for their work, courage, and leadership serving the transgender and gender-diverse youth community in San Diego.

The Unsung Hero Award went to Jean-Huy Tran for his work in the Asian Pacific Islander community.

The commission presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to its namesake, Leon L. Williams, for his efforts in fighting racism and inequality and his political leadership in both the County and City of San Diego.

Williams originally established a human relations commission as a county supervisor in the 1980s.

"He challenged us to really take the commission seriously. He reminded us of how hard the work is going to be, but we're committed to carrying on his legacy," said Ellen Nash, Chair of the Human Relations Commission.

The commission was revived in May of 2020 in the wake of racial conflict.

Over the past year and a half, Nash said they've created subcommittees, held public forums on community issues, and more with the mission to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout San Diego county.

There are two open positions on the commission for youth. If you or someone you know may be interested, contact the county's Office of Equity and Racial Justice.