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NEA honors community activist Jitu Brown with human and civil rights award

Minneapolis - July 01, 2018 -

A highly respected community activist nationwide, Jitu Brown exemplifies what it is to be a social justice hero. The director of Journey for Justice demands accountability from public officials, seeks community-based alternatives to privatization and disinvestment from public education, and has put his body on the line for a better quality of life within communities of color across the country.

For these reasons, NEA honored Brown with the NEA Rosa Parks Memorial Award as part of the 2018 NEA Human and Civil Rights Awards, which recognized the work of 12 outstanding social justice heroes during an annual event held Sunday, July 1, in Minneapolis. The occasion honors educators, individuals, community partners, and organizations that are advancing the mantle for human and civil rights. It is the byproduct of the historic 1966 merger of the National Education Association and the American Teachers Association.

"The human and civil rights champions we honor tonight are the epitome of the fierce urgency of now that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about in his ‘I have a Dream speech,’” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Through their deeds and actions, they have demonstrated remarkable courage and conviction to stand up for racial and social justice. They have shown an unrelenting resolve and ferocity to make a real difference for public education, students, and our nation’s future. They are shining examples of social justice activism, fighting against injustices every day, and making sure that our great nation lives up to its promise.”

Brown is a proud product of Chicago’s public school system. He knows firsthand the need for direct action and non-violent civil disobedience in protecting public schools. He has been arrested in non-violent protests, and in 2015 he organized a 34-day hunger strike to preserve Dyett High School—the last open enrollment public high school on Chicago’s South Side. A year after the hunger strike, the school’s doors reopened.

Brown’s work is also visible in other states. In New Jersey he supported Newark families who waged a successful battle to end state control of their schools, and he continues to work with Detroit parents in the fight to win back their public schools. Across the U.S., Brown has organized marches, rallies and critical conversations in the fight for equity and equality. He has been a fierce critic of U.S. Secretary of Education Besty DeVos, calling on her to resign because of her efforts to privatize the nation’s public school system.

“We are living in increasingly challenging times,” said Brown. “The NEA is a partner we can trust at the Journey for Justice Alliance. Let’s commit ourselves to strengthening community and labor relationships with our critical work rooted in racial and economic justice.”

In addition to Brown, NEA also recognized former first lady Michelle Obama and the Know Your Rights Camp, founded by professional quarterback and activist Colin Kaepernick, for continuing the quest for human and civil rights in America.

To view the bios and achievements of all 12 awardees, click here. To see Jitu Brown in action, click here.

Follow the conversation on Twitter #NEARA18 #EdJustice2018 @NEAMedia

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The National Education Association ( is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez, (202) 822-7823,