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Human Rights First Award Dinner

October 22, 2014 - 6:00pm

Blog: Party Like it's Human Rights First

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Ryan Boyette

When war broke out in 2011 in southern Sudan, the aid organization Ryan Boyette worked for ordered its staff to evacuate. Boyette refused. Knowing what was coming and the lack of media in the region to witness it, he enlisted community members in the Nuba Mountains to form Nuba Reports, a network of both citizen and professional journalists. Nuba Reports illuminates the effects on civilians of Sudan’s under-reported conflicts, providing both Sudanese people and the outside world with credible and compelling reporting. It is the only media positioned to regularly confirm events happening on the ground in the Nuba Mountains, where its reporters have documented more than 1,900 government bombings targeting civilians.

Armed with nothing but video cameras, solar-powered laptops, and satellite phones, Boyette and the Nuba Reports team risk their lives to expose the government’s indiscriminate bombing campaigns. Nuba Reports produces short documentary videos about attacks on civilians and the growing famine that was exacerbated when aid groups were forced by the violence to evacuate the region.

Just four months before the war started, Boyette married Jazira, a Nuban woman from the region; they have a two-year-old son. Their home has been bombed; a government spy was shot outside a building where Boyette was sleeping.

The risks, Boyette says, are worth it. He believes in the power of information to bring about change, and the importance of recording atrocities so that communities can heal and the world cannot say they did not know.

12 Years a Slave

American popular culture has the power to move and educate millions of people—here at home, and around the world. Each year, the Sidney Lumet Award honors a work of popular culture that raises awareness about human rights and advances popular understanding of the most pressing political and social issues of our time.

This year, we honor the Academy Award-winning film 12 Years a Slave, for its powerful portrayal of the scourge of slavery and the unspeakable toll it took on the human spirit. The film is an important reminder of a painful part of our history as a nation. But it also reminds us as Americans of our historic obligation to confront modern-day slavery—known as human trafficking—a contemporary crime that claims an estimated 21 million victims a year worldwide. 12 Years a Slave is making a meaningful difference on this issue: the power of the film, and its reach, have motivated audiences to demand effective action to end modern-day slavery.

Highlights from the 2013 Human Rights First Award Dinner


Elisa Massimino's Remarks

2013 Human Rights Award

“It is an honor for me to serve these courageous women who resist despite all they’ve suffered.”

Dr. Denis Mukwege

Dr. Denis Mukwege is a gynecologist and activist in the Democratic Republic of Congo (the DRC), a place the United Nations has called “the rape capital of the world.” A leading expert in a grim specialty, Dr. Mukwege has devoted the last 15 years to healing women who have been traumatized by rape and calling for those who commit this horrific crime to be brought to justice.

Last September, Dr. Mukwege gave a speech at the United Nations condemning impunity for rape in his country, openly criticizing the international community and the Congolese government for their inaction. On October 25, 2012, Dr. Mukwege survived an assassination attempt during which his bodyguard was killed. Dr. Mukwege and his family were forced to flee the country. Despite continued threats, Dr. Mukwege decided to return to the DRC in January. Congolese women lined the 20-mile stretch from the airport to Bukavu to welcome him home.

Dr. Mukwege has resumed his essential work at Panzi Hospital, which he founded and where he and his colleagues provide thousands of survivors of rape with psychological, medical, socio-economic, and legal support. Despite ongoing personal risk, Dr. Mukwege continues to speak out.

Sidney Lumet Award for Integrity in Entertainment

42—The Jackie Robinson Story

American popular culture has the potential to move and educate millions of people. The Sidney Lumet Award for Integrity in Entertainment honors works of culture that raise awareness about human rights and advance popular understanding of the most pressing political and social issues of our time.

The 2013 Lumet Award is being given to the motion picture 42–The Jackie Robinson Story for its portrayal of the personal courage required of individuals to face down violent prejudice. The film evokes the dangers faced by human rights activists all over the world—ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances who stand up to injustice at great personal risk.

Named for the acclaimed director, this award honors those who use the power of popular culture not just to entertain, but to inform, advocate, and inspire. 42 was produced by Legendary Pictures. The award will be accepted by Academy Award–winning writer and director Brian Helgeland.