Rep. Justin J. Pearson, one of ‘Tennessee 3’, to keynote Strengthening Democracy Awards

The event will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 27 at the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.


Tennessee State Rep. Justin J. Pearson, who was expelled from serving in his state’s Legislature in 2023 before being reinstated in a landslide vote, will keynote Civic Nebraska’s 2024 Strengthening Democracy Awards.

Tennessee Rep. Justin J. Pearson

The gala will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 27 at the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. Those interested in purchasing tickets or learning more about the celebration can do so at this link.

Pearson, of Memphis, was first elected to the Tennessee House at age 28. When a mass shooter killed six people at The Covenant School in Nashville later that year, Pearson and two other representatives staged a protest on the statehouse floor for common-sense gun legislation. Lawmakers retaliated by expelling Pearson and another representative, but local government panels in Memphis and Nashville reinstated them days later. Pearson again ran for the seat in August and handily won it back.

A 2017 graduate of Bowdoin College, Pearson also co-founded Memphis Community Against the Pipeline, now known as Memphis Community Against Pollution. The group defeated a multibillion-dollar crude oil pipeline project that would have risked Memphis’ drinking water and taken property from South Memphis residents. The Sierra Club honored Pearson as its 2023 National Changemaker of the Year, and The Root included him in its list of the 100 Most Influential Black Americans 2023.

“Representative Pearson is a powerful, hopeful voice for pluralism, justice, and modern and robust democracy,” said Adam Morfeld, Civic Nebraska’s executive director. “The nation has seen how Representative Pearson refuses to accept the notion that our problems are too big or difficult and that we are not strong or capable enough to create meaningful and lasting change. His courage, passion, and enthusiasm are an inspiration to us all, and we’re eager to host him at this year’s Strengthening Democracy Awards.”

Strengthening Democracy Awards is Civic Nebraska’s annual gala. In addition to Pearson’s keynote, the celebration will include recognizing five peer-nominated Nebraskans whose actions strengthen democracy in our state. The categories include:

›› Community Builder: A Nebraskan who connects others, creates collaborations, or builds coalitions toward a shared goal or issue.

›› Civic Catalyst: A Nebraskan who embraces transformative ideas and puts them into action on behalf of democracy.

›› Champion of Learning: A Nebraskan who builds a more informed and engaged democracy, and who advances learning as an act of civic engagement.

›› Young Civic Leader: A Nebraskan under 25 who is not waiting to make an impact, and knows that people of all ages can make positive change.

›› Jan Gradwohl Defender of Democracy: A Nebraskan who leads change in their community by connecting others to the power of registering to vote and voting.

Nominations are open through 5 pm CDT on May 17, 2024.

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