ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR RECEIVES THE ROBERT F. KENNEDY HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD FOR HIS WORK IN LOUISIANA SENATOR KENNEDY HONORS THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF HIS BROTHER WHO WOULD HAVE CELEBRATED HIS 80TH BIRTHDAY
Washington, DC- Today Senator Edward M. Kennedy honored Stephen Bradberry, an advocate for the poor from Louisiana, with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. The event will celebrate the life and legacy of his brother, Robert F. Kennedy on what would be his 80th birthday. The ceremony featured Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy and historian Douglas Brinkley and speeches by Senator Edward Kennedy and Senator Barack Obama.
For the first time ever the RFK Human Rights award was given to an American for his work fighting poverty in the South. Stephen Bradberry, the Lead Organizer of the New Orleans chapter of ACORN was given this honor for his work advocating on behalf of New Orleans’ working poor community. Today’s award ceremony marks the beginning of a long-term partnership between Mr. Bradberry and the RFK Center for Human Rights that will put the rights of low-income families on the national agenda.
“The violent winds and flood tore away the mask that has long concealed the silent slavery of poverty in so much of our society. Katrina showed how long a journey we still have to make to live up to America’s promise. For a new generation of Americans who did not live through the civil rights movement or the Vietnam War or Watergate – Katrina was their American apocalypse. But new young leaders like Stephen Bradberry understand that the darkest time often comes just before a dawn,” Senator Kennedy said. “Bobby would be very proud of the work Stephen is doing to carry on his unfinished work, and to help all those living in even the deepest shadows, about whom he cared so much.”
Bradberry has been pushing for years for the structural improvements that would have protected the city from the catastrophic results that have followed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He spoke about how the tragic outcome was as much a human-made as natural disaster: the lack of government investment in levees and wetlands that could protect the city, inadequate evacuation of residents reliant on public transit, tension between law enforcement and low-income communities and communities of color because of complex historical issues, and extremely high poverty rates that prevented tens of thousands of people from being able to protect themselves – these are just some of the social, political and economic conditions that led to the current crisis we are facing.
According to Bradberry, unless low-income people demand and win a real voice in the city’s rebuilding, these same issues will continue to make our communities vulnerable to the same type of devastation. He warns that healthcare, quality education and other vital issues that low-income families struggled with before will continue to be issues as the city rebuilds. Following are Senator Kennedy’s remarks at today’s ceremony: