Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lannan Cultural Freedom Awards recognize border heroes

Lannan Foundation
313 Read Street
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2628

Laurie Betlach

Lannan Foundation Announces
Five Cultural Freedom Awards

Santa Fe, NM-- Lannan Foundation announced that it has recognized five human rights advocates with Cultural Freedom Awards for 2008. Recipients of the awards represent the United States, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.

The purpose of the Lannan Cultural Freedom Award is to recognize individuals working on behalf of communities struggling to uphold and defend their right to cultural freedom and diversity. As defined by the Foundation, Cultural Freedom is a basic human right dependent on political, economic, and environmental justice.

A total of $750,000 has been awarded for these individuals’ work towards environmental justice, stopping violence against women and children, border justice, Native American cultural preservation and revitalization, and prisoners’ rights.

Those recognized are: Bradley Angel, an environmental justice activist working to stop toxic polluters that target low-income communities; Esther Chávez Cano, founder of a violence prevention and treatment shelter protecting women and children in the Juarez region in Mexico; Isabel Garcia, a public defender who works on behalf of immigrants in the American Southwest; Malcolm Margolin, a book publisher who helps advance the cultural rights of American Indians indigenous to the state of California; and Clive Stafford Smith, a legal defender who represents Guantanamo detainees and prisoners on death row in the United States and around the world.

According to Foundation President Patrick Lannan, "All of the individuals honored this year have tirelessly committed themselves to improving and protecting the lives of the most politically and economically marginalized segments of society, oftentimes making personal sacrifices and sometimes risking their own safety for the well-being of others. We are honored to recognize these five heroes as shining examples in the fight for cultural freedom.”

Bradley Angel is an international leader in the environmental health and justice movement, working with communities to stop pollution threats and to promote pollution prevention, clean technologies, and safe jobs. He is co-founder of Greenaction, which works to address health and environmental justice issues within urban, rural, and Indigenous communities.

Since 1987, Mr. Angel has worked with hundreds of diverse low-income and working class communities and Native Nations impacted and threatened by pollution. He has played a leading role helping communities win some of the most important struggles in the history of the environmental justice movement.

In 1990, Mr. Angel exposed the waste industry’s targeting of tribal lands for incinerators and dumps with a landmark report entitled “Toxic Threat to Indian Lands.” This report helped galvanize grassroots indigenous organizing that succeeded in defeating the great majority of dangerous waste disposal projects proposed in Indian country.

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Mr. Angel played a key role in helping the small San Joaquin Valley farm worker community of Kettleman City, California, defeat a hazardous waste incinerator proposed to be built near a toxic waste landfill. This was one of the largest battles and most significant victories in the history of the environmental justice movement, and helped spark the growth of the environmental justice movement in the state, country, and internationally. Today Mr. Angel and Greenaction continue to work with Kettleman City residents in opposing the proposed expansion of the hazardous waste landfill.

Mr. Angel was an advisor to the Colorado River Native Nations Alliance (Fort Mojave, Chemehuevi, Quechan, Cocopah, and Colorado River Indian Tribes) that led the successful fight that defeated the radioactive waste dump proposed to be built on sacred lands near the Colorado River at Ward Valley in the Mojave Desert of California. He played a key role in bringing together the Tribes with environmental justice and environmental groups and activists in a powerful coalition and campaign that stopped the dump project, including a 113-day nonviolent occupation of the proposed dumpsite.

In 2008, Mr. Angel and Greenaction helped members of the Tohono O’odham Nation defeat Mexico’s plans to build a hazardous waste landfill close to a sacred ceremonial site and an O’odham community living in Quitovac, Sonora, Mexico.

Prior to co-founding Greenaction, Mr. Angel was the Southwest Toxics Campaign Coordinator for Greenpeace USA from 1986 though 1997. He also served as co-director of the San Francisco Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign in 1985.

Esther Chávez Cano is a human rights activist who has dedicated the last sixteen years of her life to addressing the horrific effects of widespread violence against women and children in Juarez, Mexico, one of the most crime-ridden cities on the planet.

She has worked relentlessly to bring to the world’s attention the hundreds of murders of Mexican women and girls in the Juarez region. She has founded or co-founded several non-governmental organizations defending the rights of women and children, including Casa Amiga, a violence treatment and prevention center that has sheltered thousands of victims of sexual crimes and other types of violence in the border region of Chihuahua, Mexico.

In the early 1990’s, Ms. Chávez Cano was one of the most prominent voices to bring the issue of violence against women to the forefront of Mexican society. In collaboration with other women’s rights organizations in Mexico, she documented and publicized the murders, tortures, and disappearances of mostly young and poor women and girls, many of whom migrated to Northern Mexico to work in the maquiladoras (multinational factories) along the U.S.—Mexico border. Although these murders continue to this day and remain largely unsolved, Ms. Chávez Cano’s work helped force unresponsive Mexican political, judicial, and law enforcement authorities to investigate more vigorously the rising tide of violence and murder against women, and also to take more seriously the concerns of family members of the victims.

Realizing that there was no effective treatment facility for the women and children suffering from the high levels of violence in the city, Ms. Chávez Cano founded Casa Amiga in 1999 to address the psychological and medical needs of these victims. Since then, thousands of people have been treated at Casa Amiga, the only crisis shelter of its kind in the entire border region of Northern Mexico.

Services at Casa Amiga include psychological counseling, medical assistance, and legal aid for the victims of domestic violence and incest. Casa Amiga also educates the public on the rights of women and violence prevention in general. Casa Amiga is a model, both nationally and internationally, for empowering victims of violence.

Ms. Chávez Cano has received many awards for her work in promoting the understanding and prevention of violence against women, including the 2008 National Human Rights Prize in Mexico (El Premio Nacional de los Derechos Humanos).

Isabel Garcia is the co-chair of the Coalición de Derechos Humanos, a grassroots organization based in Tucson, Arizona, that promotes respect for human and civil rights and fights the militarization of the Southwestern border region, as well as discrimination and human rights abuses by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials affecting U.S. and non-U.S. citizens alike. She is also the legal defender of Pima County, Arizona, where she provides legal defense services to individuals entitled to court-appointed counsel for adult felony offenses, juvenile cases transferred to adult court, criminal appeals, and other post-conviction relief where the court has determined that a legal or ethical conflict with the Public Defender's office exists. Ms. Garcia has been at the forefront of immigrant and refugee rights since 1976.

The goals of Derechos Humanos include strengthening the capacity of the border and urban communities to exercise their rights and participate in public policy decisions, increasing public awareness of the magnitude of human rights abuses, deaths and assaults at the border resulting from U.S. policy, and seeking changes in government policies that result in human suffering because of the militarization of the U.S. border region.

As a lead speaker on behalf of Derechos Humanos, Ms. Garcia holds press conferences and interviews, hosts media crews, leads demonstrations, weekly vigils, symposiums and marches, to draw attention to the unjust policies and inhumane treatment of immigrants. She works to counter anti-immigrant hysteria and to change the stereotypes and misinformation about immigrants.

In addition to education and activism, Derechos Humanos keeps track of the body count of migrants who die attempting to cross the desert between Arizona and Sonora, one of the most treacherous border crossings on the U.S.—Mexico border. Crosses representing the names and ages (if known) of every body found are kept at the offices of Derechos Humanos and used in vigils to bring attention to the plight of undocumented immigrants who, for economic reasons, risk their lives to come north to the United States to find work.

Since the implementation of stricter border policies in the mid-1990s, it is estimated that more than 4,000 migrants have died trying to cross over into the U.S. Migrants have been driven into the desert as urban crossing points have been closed down, and border communities have suffered from the division and xenophobia that militarization has brought.

According to Ms. Garcia, “Immigration policy has been a total failure and needs to be changed. It has not prevented people from attempting to cross the border but has put the lives of thousands of men, women, and children in serious danger. Their deaths are the direct result of U.S. policy.”

Ms. Garcia has received many awards for her work including the 2006 National Human Rights Award from the Comision Nacional de los Derechos Humanos de Mexico. This was the first time this award had been granted to someone who was not born in Mexico nor living in Mexico.

Malcolm Margolin is the founder of Heyday Books, established in 1974. The mission of Heyday Books is to deepen people’s appreciation and understanding of California’s cultural, natural, historic, literary, and artistic resources. In the last thirty-five years, the press has evolved from a one-person operation to a nonprofit cultural organization that publishes twenty-five books and sponsors more than 200 events a year. In 2007, seven books published by Heyday were traveling the state in the form of museum shows, and PBS produced three films based on books published by Heyday.

Mr. Margolin’s vision has led the press to be especially active in publishing works by and about the California Indian community. Over the years Heyday has published more than thirty books on California Indians and since 1987 has been distributing News from Native California, a quarterly magazine devoted to California Indian culture and history. Many of the existing tribes indigenous to the state of California were nearly wiped out, due to disease, enslavement, and institutionalized genocide. Today, while a number of traditional cultural practices and Native languages are on the brink of extinction, News from Native California has been a strong force in helping to spark a revitalization of California Indian languages and cultures, a renaissance currently taking place in many Native communities throughout the state. In the role of publisher, Mr. Margolin has had the privilege of witnessing and supporting widespread cultural revival efforts in language, dance, basketweaving, storytelling, religious practice, and other areas of life. The press has served as a vehicle of communication among diverse people and various organizations, and networks were created as an indirect result of their efforts.

Mr. Margolin is the author of four books, the best known of them being The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco – Monterey Bay Area, named by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the 100 most important books written by a westerner in the twentieth century.

Mr. Margolin was born in Boston in 1940, grew up there, and graduated from Harvard College in 1964. He has lived in Berkeley, California, since arriving there in a VW bus in the late 1960’s.

Clive Stafford Smith is an attorney and the founder of Reprieve, a human rights organization focusing on the rights of death row prisoners and Guantanamo detainees.

After graduating from Columbia Law School in New York, he spent nine years as a lawyer with the Southern Center for Human Rights working on death penalty cases and other civil rights issues. In 1993, he moved to New Orleans and launched the Louisiana Crisis Assistance Center, a non-profit law office specializing in representation of poor people in death penalty cases.

In his current work as director of Reprieve, he oversees the organization’s work in investigating, litigating, and educating. The organization provides legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. They promote the rule of law around the world, and secure each person’s right to a fair trial.

Reprieve prioritizes the cases of prisoners accused of the most extreme crimes, such as acts of murder or terrorism, as it is in such cases that human rights are most likely to be jettisoned or eroded. The prisoners assisted typically cannot find advocates elsewhere. Reprieve focuses on cases involving the world’s most powerful governments, especially those that should uphold the highest standards when it comes to fair trials.

Reprieve’s lawyers currently represent over 30 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. The organization also continues to assist British nationals facing the death penalty around the world, and is conducting investigations into “extraordinary renditions” and secret prisons.

In 2000, Mr. Stafford Smith was awarded an OBE for ‘humanitarian services.’ Since 2004, he has focused on achieving due process for the prisoners being held by the U.S. in Guantanamo Bay, as well as continuing his work on death penalty cases. He was made a Rowntree Visionary and Echoing Green Fellow in 2005 and was previously a Soros Senior Fellow. As director, he is responsible for overseeing Reprieve’s Casework Program, as well as the direct representation of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and on death row as a Louisiana licensed attorney at law.

Mr. Stafford Smith has recently authored Eight O’Clock Ferry to the Windward Side: Seeking Justice in Guantanamo Bay, which recounts his personal experiences representing more than fifty of these prisoners and spending many weeks in their company. Through their stories, he explores the steep human costs of jettisoning the rule of law to combat terrorism, tracing the proffered justifications for torture of suspects, and cataloging the array of deceits that shield the actions of the U.S. prison authorities.

Lannan Foundation is a private family foundation located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Funding is focused on special cultural projects and ideas that promote and protect cultural freedom, diversity, and creativity. For further information on previous recipients of the Lannan Cultural Freedom awards and fellowships, as well as the Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, please visit our website at

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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008:
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