Kiah Morris, executive director of Vermont- and New Hampshire-based bistate grassroots political organization Rights & Democracy, was named one of five recipients of Oxfam’s 2023 Champions of Equality award. The award honors women who have gone above and beyond to drive change, speak truth to power, show courageous leadership, and use their voices to fight for what is right and to defend themselves and others.
The ceremony took place as part of Oxfam’s 2023 International Women’s Day conference, held March 6-8 in Washington, DC. In addition to Morris, this year’s awardees included documentary filmmaker Rachel Lears; climate activist and lawyer Colette Pichon Battle; former Portland City Commissioner Hon. Jo Ann Hardesty (Sisters on the Planet Ambassador); and US Congresswoman (MN), Hon. Ilhan Omar (Sisters on the Planet Ambassador).
“We are honored to present Kiah this award because of her exceptional talent to transform the stories she has heard and witnessed and the experiences of the women she has met into works of art and activism that move decisionmakers,” said Gina Cummings, vice president of Alliances, Advocacy, and Policy at Oxfam. “Through her courage and willingness to speak out, Kiah creates movements and moments that are the sparks of change.”
A’shanti Gholar, president of Emerge, who presented Morris with the award, said that she “epitomizes the grit and perseverance of Black women” and people of color who run for office.
In addition to serving as Rights & Democracy’s executive director, Morris is a Sisters on the Planet Ambassador for Oxfam America. In this role, she traveled in 2019 to Honduras and El Salvador, where she visited the Romero Center and composed the poem “I Saw the Places They Died,” about the brutal massacre committed there. She shared this poem with former U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy during an advocacy meeting in Washington, and he had it placed in the Congressional Record to amplify the experiences of those who were impacted.
Morris, formerly of Bennington, is also a former two-term Vermont state representative, serving as the first African-American and person of color elected from Bennington County and the second African-American woman elected to the Legislature. She shared her story of the extreme threats and vitriol that she endured during her time in office, as well as her quest for justice and an end to online violence for all women, in the feature-length documentary “Backlash: Misogyny in the Digital Age,” which screened at the Vermont Statehouse earlier this year.
Oxfam is a global organization that fights inequality to end poverty and injustice and demand equal rights and equal treatment so that everyone can thrive, not just survive. Oxfam’s Sisters on the Planet Ambassadors launched the Champions of Equality awards last year.