Photo: Bill Hackwell
San Francisco, May 8 -This evening at The Palace of Fine Arts, a well known landmark near the entrance to the San Francisco Bay, the Global Exchange 12th annual Human Rights Award took place. This palatial structure was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition for art exhibits but tonight its purpose was to recognize and pay tribute to fighters for peace, justice and a better world.
In the People's Choice Award category this year the Cuban 5 were the recipients based on the results of on line voting in March. The Five were nominated by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5.
Presenting the award was Ted Lewis, the Human Rights Program director for Global Exchange, who said that more than 29,000 entered the page of the People's Choice Award. Nearly a third of those visited the section for the five resulting in them receiving the largest number of votes.
Receiving the award for the Cuban 5 was María Eugenia Guerrero, affectionately known by her family and friends as Maruchi, and the sister of Antonio Guerrero. This event marked the first time a family member of the Cuban 5 has spoken publicly on their behalf in the U.S.
Before introducing Maruchi, Lewis said that the Five definitely deserved this award and to briefly explain the case he presented the video of Danny Glover on the tenth anniversary of their arrest. In ending his remarks Lewis said that it is up to Obama to free them and added, "he didn't begin this mess but he can end it."
As Maruchi walked onto to the stage to receive the award, the large crowd in attendance gave her a standing ovation in recognition of her being there and to express their solidarity with the Cuban 5. In a movement that is constantly trying to bring this case to the light of day, this moment signified that a wider audience was being reached.
Maruchi in her remarks thanked Global Exchange for having considered the inclusion of the Five in this contest, explaining that while the Five have received awards in many countries around the world that this was the first time that it has happened in the U.S. and the fact that it was a human rights award made it that much more special. She told the audience that her mother Mirta is 82 years old and time is passing. " She dedicates every minute of her life championing the cause of the five and her greatest wish is to see her son and the others free."
She ended her talk by making a call for people to join the upcoming 5 Days for the Cuban 5 in Washington DC June 4-10.
During the night's festivities María Estela Barco Huerta, a known anti-GMO activist who has played a leading role in organizing Agro-Ecology Learning Exchanges in Chiapas, Mexico received the International Award.
In the Domestic Award category Global Exchange honored the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Schools. Charlie Cobb, Freedom Schools visionary; Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of Freedom Singers and cultural historian; and Phillip Agnew, Executive Director of the Dream Defenders accepted the Domestic Award.