Each year, Sarasota Magazine asks readers to nominate people for Unity Awards to honor community members who help to bring the community together across “racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, socioeconomic and physical and mental ability groups.” The magazine’s editors and external judges select winners from the group who are featured in the magazine. This year, New College professors Queen Zabriskie and Sarah Hernandez have won the award.
New College President Donal O’Shea was a recipient of this award in 2014 for his work with Educate for Change which welcomed ten female students from Middle Eastern countries to New College.
Zabriskie and Hernandez will be featured in the January/February issue of Sarasota Magazine and will be honored at a virtual ceremony on Feb. 23, 2021.
Zabriskie is an associate professor of Sociology, Gender Studies and Social Sciences and Hernandez is an associate professor of Sociology, Latin America and Caribbean Studies, Gender Studies and Social Sciences. They are both involved in local organizations that help to promote social justice.
“Our judges chose Sarah Hernandez for her involvement in issues like immigrant rights, voting rights and the needs of the homeless and environmental causes,” Editor in Chief of Sarasota Magazine Susan Burns said.
Hernandez is part of the Education Advisory Committee of Unidos Now an organization that strives to “empower Latinos to achieve their American Dream.” Hernandez tutors low income first-generation students there. She also works with the Sarasota Anti-Racism Working Group which educates the local community about racism and works towards racial justice. Hernandez’s “commitment to social justice issues is deep and long,” Burns said.
“Queen Zabriskie has the same inspiring commitment to social justice,” Burns said, citing Zabriskie’s involvement in addressing local racism by founding the Sarasota Anti-Racism Working Group and her involvement with the Multicultural Health Institute, Dreamers Academy, the Peace Education and Action Center and various religious groups.
Zabriskie has long been an advocate for students of color at New College and launched the annual Black History Month celebration at the college in 2015. The events include the African Diaspora Film Festival, the Black Literature Read-in, and the Black Arts and Performance series. Zabriskie was not available to comment.
“The [social justice] work that needs to be done and is being done involves efforts to overcome discrimination on the basis of a wide variety of social categories, such as race, ethnicity, sex, gender, ability, age, religion and economic class among others,” Hernandez said. She suggested that students choose one or two social justice issues to focus on to avoid burnout which “leads to inaction.” After choosing a cause, Hernandez said that students can contribute by joining campus clubs or organizations within the Sarasota community, including ALSO Youth, Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center (SPARCC) and the Peace Education and Action Center.
While Hernandez was honored to receive the award, she said that it is “not about her” but “the positive values Sarasota Magazine leadership and many other Sarasotans hold and wish to encourage us all to pursue.” To Hernandez, “it symbolizes the fact that in Sarasota many people have such high value for diversity and a caring community that they even created an award!”