Ryan Boyette, Film 12 Years a Slave to Receive Awards during Human Rights First Dinner Tonight
New York City – Tonight at Human Rights First’s annual awards dinner at Chelsea Piers in New York City, human rights advocate Ryan Boyette will receive the organization’s Human Rights Award. Boyette will be honored for his courageous work documenting and drawing international attention to the ongoing bombings and attacks against civilians by the Sudanese government in conflicts largely hidden from worldview. In addition, the organization’s Sidney Lumet Award for Integrity in Entertainment will be presented by to the film 12 Years a Slave. NBC’s Brian Williams will host this evening’s 36th Anniversary celebration.
“Human Rights First is proud to honor Ryan Boyette for his critically important work and incredible bravery exposing the brutality of the Sudanese regime,” said Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino. “We are inspired by Ryan’s commitment to keep the eyes of the world on the human rights crisis in southern Sudan.”
In June 2011, following disputed elections in Sudan’s South Kordofan state, violence erupted between the Sudanese government and armed rebel forces. As retribution against the rebels, the Sudanese military launched a violent campaign targeting civilians. Three years later, indiscriminate bombings and violence continues in South Kordofan. In an effort to hide their crimes, the Sudanese government banned all journalists from the region.
Boyette refused to evacuate the area and made a commitment to expose the violence to the world. He founded Nuba Reports, a network of citizen and professional journalists. Armed with nothing but video cameras, solar-powered laptops, and satellite phones, Boyette and the Nuba Reports team risk their lives to expose the assault on the Nuban people, and serve as witnesses for the world. With their news coverage and on social media, they work to galvanize worldwide attention and generate political will for long-term change in Sudan. Nuba Reports is a vital – and often the only – source of on-the-ground information for human rights groups, governments, and the media on southern Sudan.
The motion picture 12 Years a Slave was selected to receive the organization’s 2014 Sidney Lumet Award for Integrity in Entertainment for its powerful portrayal of the scourge of slavery and the unspeakable toll it took on the human spirit. Alfre Woodard, who played the role of Mistress Shaw in the film, will accept the Lumet Award. The award will be presented by Kenneth B. Morris, Jr. the founder and president of the Frederick Douglass Initiative. Morris is a direct descendant of U.S. abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington, and his organization combats modern-day slavery.
“Great works of art have the power not only to entertain, but to inspire action that can change lives. This extraordinary film is not only a powerful reminder of a painful part of our nation’s history; it is a call to action to combat the evil of slavery in our midst today,” said Massimino. “We are proud to honor this courageous, honest, and thought-provoking film.”
Tonight’s program will also recognize this year’s winners of the Marvin Frankel Award for extraordinary commitment to providing pro bono legal representation to individuals who have fled persecution and seek asylum in the United States. The honorees are Latham & Watkins LLP’s New York office and the Washington, D.C. office of McDermott Will & Emery. For a combined three decades, both firms have partnered with Human Rights First to provide critical legal representation to asylum seekers who could not otherwise afford a lawyer.
For more than 20 years, Human Rights First has presented its annual human rights awards to courageous activists on the frontlines of the struggle for freedom. Last year the group honored Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege. Former recipients of the Human Rights First award include: Chen Guangcheng of China; Basem Fathy of Egypt; Shehrbano Tasser of Pakistan; Julius Kaggwa of Uganda; Viktória Mohácsi of Hungary; Damos De Blanco (Ladies in White) of Cuba; Ludmilla Alexeeva of Russia; Helen Mack of Guatemala; Merenghiz Kar of Iran; Saad Eddin Ibrahim of Egypt; Albie Sachs of South Africa; and Hina Jalani of Pakistan.