Inna Meiman Human Rights Award recipients, Nora Radtke (left) and Morley Spencer (right) pictured with author and activists Lisa Paul (center)
University of Minnesota graduate, Lisa Paul, recently returned to the West Bank to share her human rights success story in the form of her newly released memoir, Swimming in the Daylight. Along with discussing her book Lisa awarded the first Inna Meiman Human Rights Award, a scholarship created in the name of Inna Meiman, the inspiration behind Lisa's past human rights advocacy to two current students, Morley Spencer and Nora Radtke.
Swimming in the Daylight commemorates the relationship between Paul and Inna Meiman, a Jewish Russian refusenik, denied a visa to leave the Soviet Union in order to receive cancer treatment abroad as punishment for participation in the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group, the lone human rights advocacy group in the U.S.S.R. during the height of Soviet government control and censorship. In 1985-86, Lisa carried out a 25 day hunger strike to draw national attention to Inna's plight. Her actions spurred national interest in the story and resulted in a visa allowing Inna to come for cancer treatment in the U.S. The Inna Meiman Human Rights Award, created to honor Inna and Lisa's fight for human rights recognizes students at the University of Minnesota who have already shown a dedication to protecting and promoting human rights.
The 2011 award recipients, Spencer and Radtke, friends, colleagues and graduating Global Studies seniors have already shown strong dedication to their studies and future careers to protecting and promoting human rights. Though internships, work and student group involvement Radtke and Spencer have shown time and time again their passion for expanding human rights at home and abroad.
Radtke has worked in various capacities with the Human Rights Program since 2008. As a sophomore, Radtke began interning with Child Protection International (CPI), taking on projects ranging from coordinating events to writing reports to submit to the UN Special Rapporteur on Southern Sudan. While finishing her degree, Radtke, works part-time for the Human Rights Program, is President of the Global Studies Student Association, and serves as a board member for CPI. Human Rights Program Coordinator Rochelle Hammer, who nominated Radtke for this award, stated, "Nora eagerly seeks every opportunity to learn about human rights, to transfer the knowledge she has gained to fellow students, friends, family and colleagues, and to find new ways to advocate for those who suffer" and, "Knowing the background of the award, I have no doubt that if Lisa Paul were to start her hunger strike again tomorrow, Nora would be right behind her, advocating for Inna."
Morley Spencer has also contributed greatly to human rights organizations in the Twin Cities area and abroad. In 2009, Spencer began to intern for the Advocates for Human Rights. In this capacity, she researched and wrote educational human rights materials. After her internship, Spencer continued to volunteer with the Advocates, planning and participating in a variety of events, including legislative advocacy work and tabling at the State Fair. Emily Farrel of the Advocates recommended Spencer for this award, saying, "I am quite impressed with this outstanding young woman and give her my strongest recommendation for professional roles in the future that require intelligence, excellent writing skills, organization, communication skills, human rights service and a positive attitude. She is deserving of recognition for her skills and hard work." Spencer has also volunteered for CPI and has worked in Namibia, where she wrote UN shadow reports and trained students on human rights.
Both Radtke and Spencer are highly deserving of this award and recognition for their work in the human rights field. We congratulate these two passionate activists, wishing them all the best as they continue their work of advancing human rights.