The winners of Arlington County’s annual James B. Hunter Human Rights Award, recognizing sustained commitment and outstanding accomplishment in promoting cultural diversity and equal rights for all residents, will be honored at a ceremony and reception on Thursday, Dec. 13 from 7-9 p.m., in the County Board Room at the Bozman Government Center.
The award, first given in 1999, is named for former County Board member James B. Hunter, who was dedicated to helping underserved groups access government services designed to protect their rights.
This year’s winners include two individuals and two community groups:
Marty Swaim, a social studies teacher at Arlington Public Schools from 1984 to 2001, is being recognized for co-founding “Challenging Racism: Learning How.” Swaim developed the curriculum for the yearlong workshop series, which uses reading, stories, activities and conversations to encourage a basic understanding of racism, white privilege, the roots of racism and its more recent modern manifestations in our society. The program began as an APS initiative to inform faculty and staff about race and equity. It has grown to provide information to school and work groups, community organizations, and others whose members can benefit from a deeper and broader understanding of racism and its effect on our society.
Jay Fisette served on the Arlington County Board from 1997 to 2017 and was the first openly gay elected official in Arlington and in Virginia. Throughout his 20-year tenure on the County Board, he worked to advance human rights, and championed many other issues, among them environmental sustainability. Before he joined the board in 1997, Fisette served as the director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic of Northern Virginia and was involved in the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, which successfully advocated for the inclusion of sexual orientation protections in the county’s human rights ordinance.
The Arlington Chapter of Awesome Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) holds monthly networking events for women who are small business owners in Arlington to share their experiences with one another. The group now has 150 members, ranging from artists and graphic designers to boutique and restaurant owners. In addition to supporting an underrepresented group in business ownership, Awesome Women Entrepreneurs is helping to increase the vibrancy of the local economy by supporting creative new commercial enterprise. The Arlington chapter was founded in 2014 by Karen Bate, who lives and works in Arlington.
Arm & Arm is an Arlington-based community group providing a variety of services to veterans and the incarcerated to aid in their reentry to society. Among the offered services are relapse-prevention workshops, grief and trauma support groups, resume-building and job-readiness, and more. These tools aim to help participants make rational evaluations of themselves, their situations, and their circumstances, and then make healthy and proactive decisions as they navigate their way back into society.