Strained relations

Strained relations

Pasadena Human Relations Commission presents annual award after weeks of controversy 

By Carl Kozlowski 05/21/2014

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Honoring those who make the strongest efforts to improve human relations in Pasadena, the Pasadena Human Relations Commission will present its 18th annual award ceremony at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Donald Wright Auditorium of the Pasadena Central Library.    
 
The ceremony comes at the end of a month of controversy centered on comments made by former Public Health Director Dr. Eric Walsh in his other occupation as a Seventh-day Adventist minister, in which he denigrated Muslims, Catholics, homosexuality and evolution during videotaped sermons.

The commission had voted unanimously at its May 6 meeting to organize a community forum in which the statements by Walsh and other discriminatory comments by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling could be discussed by the community. The commission’s chairman, Nat Nehdar, also spoke strongly against Walsh’s statements in an interview with the Pasadena Star-News that night. However, when contacted by the Weekly on Tuesday, Nehdar said the forum would not take place.
 
“The forum was to educate the city about racism, how to overcome racism and implementing steps to overcome it,” said Nehdar. “We were addressing the larger issue of racism, not intending to discuss Dr. Walsh and his comments personally in any way.” 
 
The commission’s mission statement specifies that it is “to aid in elimination of prejudice, intolerance and discrimination against individuals or groups because of race, religion, national origin, sex or cultural background.” Members are also called to help the city achieve “better inter-group understanding among residents and to provide assistance to local private persons and groups seeking to promote good will and better relations among all people.”

This year’s winners of the Harry Sheldon Award for corporations and organizations that strive for unity are three members of the JPL staff: Chief Information Officer Jim Rinaldi, Deputy Chief Information Officer Mag Powell-Meeks and Robin Dumas, division manager of networks and cyber security. 

The recipient of the Harry Sheldon award for individuals goes to Verleaner Dixon for her efforts at housing homeless girls and teaching them self-improvement and living skills. 

The Harry Sheldon Award for students went to Juharah Worku of Marshall Fundamental School, and the Model of Unity award will be presented to Matthew Scholz, the manager of network cyber security at JPL, while the Raymond J. Pitts award in the field of education will go to Blair High School teacher Christine McLaughlin.

The award ceremony is open to the public and will take place in the Donald Wright Auditorium of the Pasadena Central Library, 285 E. Walnut St., Pasadena. Light refreshments will be served. 

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