UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Human Rights Society (HRS), a joint student organization at Penn State Law in University Park and the Penn State School of International Affairs, announced the 2022 recipients of the Ona Judge Award for Human Rights.
Award recipients are selected by the members of HRS for their efforts to champion the cause of human rights in their personal and professional lives and to represent communities that are often the target of human rights abuses, including Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC); women; and LGBTQ+ communities.
The award is named after Ona Judge, who was born into slavery on the Mount Vernon plantation of George and Martha Washington. At the age of 10, Judge was trained to work as Martha Washington’s personal attendant and companion. When George Washington was elected to the presidency, Judge was taken to Philadelphia with the new president. Throughout the next decade, Judge worked as the assistant to the First Lady, enabling some of her successes in that position.
On May 21, 1796, while the Washingtons’ Philadelphia household was preparing to travel to Mount Vernon for the summer, Judge walked out of the house while the family was eating dinner. She was able to make her way to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for refuge with the assistance of the Black and abolitionist communities, living the remainder of her life in New Hampshire — free, but a fugitive. When she died in New Hampshire on February 25, 1848, at the age of 75, she was still legally the property of George Washington’s step-grandchild.
Judge was a courageous woman whose place in history must not be forgotten. This award is meant to celebrate those individuals who acknowledge the disadvantages of others and work relentlessly to correct them. The Human Rights Society is honored to have the first award named after Judge, a woman whose path to freedom was no easy feat.
The 2022 recipients of the Ona Judge Award for Human Rights are:
- Mayara Reis, founder of Merrimack Valley Black & Brown Voices, Inc., awarded for advocating for the mental health of Black and Brown people and the LGBTQIA+ community. Reis recounts one of her favorite memories with her organization as hosting a Restorative Wellness Retreat. The annual program was organized to target and assist the unique mental health challenges that BIPOC face. The day includes various collective healing activities facilitated by trauma informed professionals.
- Nabila Rubaiyat, Bangladeshi women and youth activist and a Penn State Law LL.M. ’22 alumna, awarded for her work on promoting sustainable development goals through the advocacy and education of women and children. Rubaiyat attributes her empathy and dedication as the driving forces behind her ability to work diligently for her community and beyond.
- Jenna Ebersbacher, immigrant, refugee, and asylee advocate, and a ‘22 Penn State Law J.D. alumna, awarded for her dedication and work in furtherance of helping individuals obtain asylum, and her compassion when providing legal services to immigrant families. Ebersbacher looks forward to continuing her work in this “emotionally and intellectually stimulating” field as an incoming associate at Brown Immigration Law this fall.
HRS is tremendously grateful to celebrate these devoted women. Reis, Rubaiyat, and Ebersbacher will serve as an inspiration to those who are hoping to make a similar impact in their efforts to advance human rights and equality. HRS is excited to continue to cheer on these women in their future endeavors!