NEW ORLEANS — Longtime community activist Deon Haywood will receive the 41st Annual Ben Smith Award from the ACLU of Louisiana. This award honors people who have demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of civil liberties in Louisiana. It is named for the late Ben Smith, a founder of the ACLU of Louisiana and a civil rights lawyer who was arrested for his work to end segregation and for participating in mixed-race gatherings.
More information about the Ben Smith Civil Liberties Award may be found at laaclu.org/bensmith.
This year's event, the Ben Smith Fête, honoring Deon Haywood will be held on May 18, 2017 at the historic Felicity Church, a newly-renovated celebration venue located in New Orleans' Lower Garden District. With more than sixty years of service to the people and communities of Louisiana, the ACLU of Louisiana continues as an organization to “act against repressive measures which are sometimes introduced in our legislature, to guard against other abuses which occur within our state and to implement the safeguards of liberties.”
Tickets are available at laaclu.org/bensmithtix.
Deon Haywood is the Executive Director of Women With A Vision, Inc., a New Orleans-based community organization founded in 1991 to improve the lives of marginalized women, their families, and communities by addressing the social conditions that hinder their health and well-being. Since Hurricane Katrina, she has led the organization to a vibrant locally-rooted international network addressing the complex intersection of socio-economic injustices and health disparities.
In 2009, Deon oversaw the launch of WWAV’s NO Justice Project, a campaign to combat the sentencing of women and trans* people arrested for street-based sex work under Louisiana’s 203-yr-old “crime against nature” felony-level law, which resulted in a federal judicial ruling and the removal of more than 700 women from the sex offender registry. Deon was also the representative from the U.S. South to the 2013 Frontline Defender’s Dublin Platform, has testified in front of the United Nations Global Commission on HIV and the Law and been honored with numerous awards by groups across the United States in recognition of her leadership at the intersection of HIV/AIDS, harm reduction, LGBTQ rights, reproductive justice and anti criminalization work.
Currently, Deon sits on the board of BreakOUT!, a youth-led organization fighting the criminalization of LGBTQ youth in New Orleans and is part of the inaugural class of Public Voices Fellows with the Ms. Foundation (2016).