In honor of their commitment to the advancement of civil rights and civil liberties, the ACLU of Southern California recognized filmmakers Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher, Starbucks’ Don MacKinnon and local Air America station KTLK at its annual Bill of Rights Dinner at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel Monday night.
“The Bill of Rights Award was created to acknowledge the contributions made by individuals whose creative and committed work affirms the democratic principles embedded in the Bill of Rights,’” said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU/SC. “The work of Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher and Don MacKinnon truly exemplifies the spirit of the award.”
Actors Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Guest were the emcees. Actor Maria Bello, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Jason Flom, Chairman and CEO of Virgin Records participated in the event. Special guests included: Al Franken, in a taped message; KTLK Station Manager John Quinlan; Danny Goldberg, CEO of Air America. The Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award was presented to lifetime activists Wally and Suzy Marks.
A founder of Hear Music and Vice President, Music and Entertainment for Starbucks Hear Music, Don MacKinnon (Bill of Rights Award) is committed to promoting artistic freedom and supporting projects that promote social justice. Hear Music has been involved in compilation CDs that benefit worthy causes that are equally important to the ACLU. In 2001, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, Alanis Morissette and R.E.M. came together for charity shows to raise awareness and money to combat world hunger. The “Groundwork” concert series supported U.N. efforts to provide the hungry with tools to help them become self-sufficient. The concert series resulted in a Hear Music CD called Groundwork: Act to Reduce Hunger. Hear Music’s Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company highlighted one of the most beloved artists of our time. Ray Charles was not only a great musician, he was also a courageous activist. Hear Music joined with Quincy Jones to raise awareness and financial support for the plight of children in countries hit hardest by war by releasing the “We Are the Future” single.
The films and television shows that Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher (Bill of Rights Award) have been involved with are honest, confrontational, empowering, and inspirational. Their films often address issues similar to the work of the ACLU. From public safety to education, social justice to censorship, their films move viewers to examine more deeply the world in which they live. Erin Brockovich passionately showed how one person can truly bring about change. This film empowers those who have been victimized to take action against negligent corporations. Shamberg and Sher address education and other social and political issues in their current films Freedom Writers, The Children of the Dust Bowl and The Battle for Fallujah. Reality Bites had characters dealing with sexuality and AIDS. Mental illness and the plight of the homeless is depicted with great compassion in The Fisher King. The Big Chill explored the nature of community idealism, and Man on the Moon explored the life of the beloved but highly controversial comedian, Andy Kaufman, who experienced censorship throughout his career.
In addition to being longtime ACLU supporters, Wally and Suzy Marks (Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award) have committed themselves to a lifetime of activism. As a leader in California’s Clean Money campaign, Wally is actively helping to educate California’s electorate about Clean Money Reform and restoring voter confidence in the electoral process. Both of them work closely with the Liberty Hill Foundation, and support Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes. Through these organizations, they have helped to support the causes so dear to the ACLU, including poverty and homeless issues, workers’ rights and criminal justice. Wally has given generous financial support to help move forward a bill for a single-payer health care system in California. They are working on a project with the Progressive Jewish Alliance and an Islamic community group to highlight positive activities where Palestinians and Israelis are working together for a more egalitarian society. Suzy has been a leading influence in the 10,000 Kites Project’s success, adding her time and money to bringing peace to Israel and a greater awareness to the struggles both Israelis and Palestinians face daily. Suzy has organized around statewide initiative campaigns, including the Bi Lateral Nuclear Weapons Freeze Initiative, and those against Proposition 187, which would have limited the rights of immigrants.
KTLK (Freedom of the Press Award) – With its Air America programming, KTLK is filling a void in the marketplace. KTLK is the only commercial talk radio station in Los Angeles that presents the progressive point of view. Station Manager John Quinlan’s leadership has played a vital role in expanding the marketplace of ideas in Los Angeles. KTLK is anchored by one of the fastest growing radio networks – Air America. Air America and KTLK have received wide-spread media coverage, both locally and nationally, enhancing progressive dialogue in this community, and encouraging it in others. In recent years, conservative talk-radio dominated the airwaves, giving the impression that the prevailing political views of all Americans were being heard, and that they were extremely conservative. With Air America nationally, and KTLK in Los Angeles, an alternate community is being given a voice. We celebrate all ideas being expressed as a true testimony to the importance of the First Amendment, and the significant role diverse dialogue must play in a free society.