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Community Advocates Honored at NYCLU Central New York Chapter’s Annual Awards Dinner

Talina Jones, Janis McDonald, Paula Johnson, Yusuf Abdul-Qadir, Twiggy Billue
The Central New York Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union presented three prestigious awards at its Annual Dinner last night honoring local civil liberties advocates. Paula Johnson and Janis McDonald, co-founders of the Cold Case Justice Initiative at Syracuse College of Law, received the Kharas Award for Distinguished Service in Civil Liberties; Sam Young of Legal Services was presented with the Seidenberg Legal Advocacy Award; and student activist and organizer Trinh Truong was given a Special Recognition Award. The dinner was hosted by the chapter’s new interim director, Yusuf Abdul-Qadir, who previously served as chapter board president.

“I am honored to begin my leadership of the NYCLU’s Central New York Chapter by recognizing these outstanding civil liberties leaders,” said Abdul-Qadir. “All four of our honorees have demonstrated a profound commitment to our chapter’s mission: Guarding the fundamental rights and liberties of Central New Yorkers and all New Yorkers.”

The Kharas Award for Distinguished Service in Civil Liberties recognizes individuals who have taken direct action to protect or promote civil liberties. Professors Paula Johnson and Janis McDonald are honored for shedding light on many racially-motivated murders that warranted further investigation through co-founding the Cold Case Justice Initiative. Prior Kharas Award winners include Cherylene “Twiggy” Billue, Jerry Berrigan, Alan Rosenthal, Karen DeCrow, Vivian Moore, Joseph Heath, Bill Cuddy, Kathleen Rumpf, Magda Bayoumi, Michael Schwartz, Donna Reese, Beth Broadway, Marsha Weissman and Betty DeFazio.

Attorney Sam Young is the sixth recipient of the chapter’s Seidenberg Award, which recognizes advocacy for civil rights and civil liberties by people from the legal community. He currently directs Legal Services’ impact litigation on behalf of low-income clients and clients with disabilities. He is also a long-time member of the ACLU and the Chair of the Central New York Chapter’s legal committee. Prior Seidenberg Award winners include Donald L. Schoenwald, Susan Horn, retired City Court Judge Langston McKinney, and attorneys Ronald Van Norstrand and Dennis Kaufman.

Finally, the Central New York Chapter presented Yale law student Trinh Truong with a Special Recognition Award for her advocacy in Utica, where she is the co-founder and current president of the city’s Youth Common Council, and has been a member of the NYCLU’s Central New York Chapter Board since 2012.

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