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|NATIONAL PRESS RELEASE
||November 9, 2005
Vanessa Daniel / Amber Guillory
COURAGE AWARDS HONOR THREE WHO BECAME LEADERS IN THE FACE OF DISCRIMINATION
The Colin Higgins Foundation Honors Individuals Speaking Out and Advocating for Change
SAN FRANCISCO, November 9, 2005—Eva Georgia, Andy Marra, and Michael Shackelford have been named as recipients of the sixth annual Colin Higgins Foundation Courage Awards.
From South Africa to New York to Oklahoma, the 2005 honorees have faced a long road of hardship, intolerance and bigotry-yet steadfastly advocated for positive social change for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer and questioning (LGBTQQ) community. The Colin Higgins Courage Awards are given each year to acknowledge such remarkable individuals who refuse to be silenced by societal norms and who demonstrate amazing courage.
"This year's award winners have risen above great difficulty due to their tenacity and their leadership," said Vanessa Daniel of Tides, which manages the Colin Higgins Foundation. "And leadership comes in many forms. Sometimes leadership is demonstrated by attaining a public position of authority-and sometimes leadership is demonstrated by openly embracing your own identity. This year's honorees have endured hate and harassment, vicious physical abuse and concerted efforts to change who they are. They have come out of those experiences not only stronger, but committed to make this world a better place for those who follow."
To support their efforts, recipients of the 2005 Colin Higgins Courage Awards receive a grant of $5,000 and full expenses paid to attend the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's annual "Creating Change" conference.
The 2005 Courage Award winners are:
Born and raised in South Africa, Eva Georgia saw many of her friends shot to death or "necklaced" (burned alive in a ring of tires) for being gay. Neither these horrific sights, the severe beatings she received from her family or the violence of vigilante groups, stopped her from speaking out as a lesbian and supporting other queer youth and their families. Working under both Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, she helped broker a truce between youth gangs and establish the nation's first post-apartheid radio network. Increasing attacks from vigilante groups later forced her to seek asylum in the United States. Currently the General Manager for Pacifica Radio station KPFK in Los Angeles, Eva has worked tirelessly to integrate LGBT issues into every area of the station's programming and community outreach.
A twenty-year old transgender Korean adoptee, Andy Marra responded to the conservatism of her adoptive family and the town in which she was raised by becoming a leading voice for transgender rights in New York and across the country. As a high school student Andy organized a statewide summit with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA). The goal was to build support for the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA), a statewide "safer schools" bill that will hopefully pass into law for public schools in the state of New York. In New York City, she was a part of the successful organizing efforts to pass a similar bill into law. Now a full time college student at Pace University, Andy has a fellowship at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), serves as the president of her university's LGBT student organization, sits as the youngest board member of several statewide transgender and LGBT organizations, and serves as the board chair for the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE). Andy is also committed to linking work in the transgender community with work in communities of color and to increasing youth leadership in the LGBT movement.
Coming out of the closet in the rural town of Sandy Springs, Oklahoma, was more than difficult for Michael Shackelford. Not only was he sent to a camp in order to "make him straight," his home and school were picketed by followers of homophobic Baptist pastor Fred Phelps. Leaflets were distributed across his town denouncing Shackelford by name. After a year of bullying and harassment that left him too afraid to even use the restroom at his high school, he dropped out. It was then that he met the Washington Post reporter whose interest in Shackelford's life story inspired a series articles that eventually became a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Michael went on to get his GED and has resolved to stay in his home town, stay religious, and stay out-of-the-closet. He says he feels it is God's calling that he work for LGBT rights in his hometown. He is currently active with the Openarms Youth Project and strives to ensure that national LGBT organizations do not forget how difficult it is to be an LGBT youth in the rural bible belt of the United States.
The winners of this year's Colin Higgins Courage Awards join a stellar group of previous winners, all of whom have demonstrated the capacity to inspire others to discover their own value through their example, their tenacity and their leadership. A list of previous winners can be found at www.colinhiggins.org.
Colin Higgins, acclaimed screenwriter, director and producer of films such as Harold and Maude and Nine to Five, established the Colin Higgins Foundation in 1986 to further his humanitarian goals. In addition to the Courage Awards, the Foundation supports numerous LGBTQQ organizations, ranging from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender outreach and AIDS prevention programs. The Foundation focuses on organizations and projects that work with LGBTQQ youth; geographically underserved communities, such as rural and reservation communities; and demographically underserved communities, such as communities of color, transgender communities, and low-income communities. To learn more, visit www.colinhiggins.org.
Colin Higgins is administered by Tides that awarded over $74 million to organizations in 2004. Since 1976, Tides has partnered with donors and institutions by offering donor-advised funds, philanthropic advice and management services for progressive social change philanthropy. Tides is committed to strengthening community-based nonprofit organizations and the progressive movement through national and global philanthropy -- creating a positive impact on people's lives in ways that honor and promote human rights, economic justice and a healthy, sustainable environment.
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