Oklahoma Human Rights Awards – 2017

We recognize some of the many human rights heroes who live among us.

There is plenty of evidence that human rights are under attack where we live. All you have to do is turn on the television news. Fear, bigotry, and hatred are a volatile mixture. We worry about the future of our nation.

Yet, there is other evidence to examine — hopeful signs that human rights are alive and well. Right here in Oklahoma, we see that the dignity of the individual person is being honored. Religious freedom is being protected. The rights of all people are being defended. We are building communities where every man, woman, and child may find equal justice, equal opportunity, and equal dignity without discrimination.

Where is our evidence?

We find it in the people of our great state. In every corner of Oklahoma — in places close to home, in the world of the individual person — we recognize the human rights heroes who live among us. They are the champions of human rights where we live.

They defend the weak. They teach justice. They inspire us by their example to recognize our own rights and to uphold the rights of others.

On Saturday, December 9th, you can join us as we celebrate some of Oklahoma’s many champions of human rights. Our program, co-sponsored by the Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Alliance will begin at 10am in the House Chamber (4th floor) of the Oklahoma Capitol building, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd., in Oklahoma City. The program is free and open to the public.

These are our Oklahoma Human Rights Award Winners for 2017:

Victor Acosta

Victor Acosta was born in San Luis Potosi (Mexico). He moved to Oklahoma City at the age of seventeen, and he has called OKC his home since then. This year, Victor Acosta has been recognized for a “Next Gen Under 30” Award for his work in graphic design. He has also been selected as “Mr. Fiesta de Las Americas.” He plans to use his position as crowned Mr. Fiesta de Las Americas to motivate and help other generations. He is also very active and involved with Dream Act Oklahoma.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 15.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Narciso Argüelles

Narciso Argüelles’ life is rooted in education and service. With time spent balancing community work, teaching art, and an art career, he has played a significant role in the development of Oklahoma’s first Latino Cultural Center, to be unveiled later this year. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the non-profit group, Inclusion in Art, whose mission is to advance racial and cultural diversity.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 19.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Michael Barlow

Michael Barlow (Nov. 2, 1944 – Nov. 28, 2015) was a passionate teacher who often performed workshops and seminars for school administrators. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Educator’s Hall of Fame in 2010. Many knew him as an ardent supporter of the State of Israel, a voice for the Oklahoma City Jewish Community, a negotiator and education consultant, a teacher, union leader, an improv comic, a snow camper, cross country skier, world traveler and the guy with the “Moses beard.”

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 26.
(1) Everyone has the right to education….
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

Fannie Bates

After retiring as a teacher in the public schools, Fannie – who was by no mean done educating – started a very unique school: the Dunjee International School. She has been teaching English to people in Afghanistan, including women and girls, over the internet. Six days a week, Fannie gets up in the middle of the night and runs her students through lessons from beginning to advanced English usage, both aural and written.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 7.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Dr. Mari Fagin

Dr. Mari Fagin‘s life’s work has included positions as a college professor, director of outpatient services of a large mental health center, and a private practice as a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marital and Family Therapist. She is a member of Temple B’nai Israel in Oklahoma City and is committed to the encouragement and support of interfaith relationships and activities. She is a board member of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma and a former chairman of the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 22.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Lydia Gill-Polley

Lydia Gill-Polley (July 18, 1931 – Sept. 24, 2017) was a lifelong advocate of “peace and justice for all.”

“As a tireless resister of the death penalty, I knew that she frequently visited and befriended death row inmates, and worked for their clemency, believing that all of us are more than the worst thing we have ever done,” said Robin Meyers, Senior Minister at Mayflower Church, where she attended.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 5.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Rena Guay

A longtime activist, Rena Guay has worked to combat sexism, poverty, racism, homophobia, AIDS, homelessness, and war, seeking a unified vision of peace, justice and community. Her photographs provide a visual record of Oklahoma City’s progressive movement, and she has used her technology skills to further her causes through websites, podcasts and on social media. She serves as chair of Amnesty OKC and is the state death penalty abolition coordinator for Amnesty USA.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 21.
(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

David Hill

David Hill was born in Sasakwa, Oklahoma, in 1941. He has been an activist his whole life and with the American Indian Movement since 1972. In 2015, Hill was one of several Native American actors who walked off the set of an Adam Sandler movie, The Ridiculous 6, because the producers were being disrespectful to Native Americans.

“Let me tell you, our dignity is not for sale…. If someone doesn’t speak up, no one will.”
–David Hill

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 2.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Veronica Laizure

Attorney Veronica Laizure is the Civil Rights Director for the Council on American Islamic Relations Oklahoma Chapter (CAIR-OK). She was nominated by the organization’s executive director, Adam Soltani who said, “Veronica Laizure is defining what it means to protect the human rights for one of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable communities: the Oklahoma Muslim Community.”

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 18.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Candace Liger

Candace Liger is the CEO of The Goodfunk Collective, empowering resilience and self-care through creative wellness, arts, and activism. She is also a Community Organizer for American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oklahoma, a certified health and wellness expert, and an award-winning performance and spoken word artist.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Mariana Llanos

Through children’s literature, Mariana Llanos hopes to bring understanding and empathy to the world. Mariana supports human rights in Oklahoma by promoting literacy and breaking stereotypes in schools. She visits schools in person and online to share her passion for books. Also, in these visits she promotes tolerance and respect by sharing her own experiences as an immigrant in the United States.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 27.
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

Anne Murray

For most of her adult life, Anne Murray has been an active advocate for numerous human rights and social justice issues. She has been a volunteer at the Peace House in Oklahoma City since 1985, working on its Peace Strategy Newspaper, helping to organize public events, speakers and films, and serving today as its volunteer financial accountant.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 3.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Peter K. Schaffer

Attorney Peter K. Schaffer opened Kaiser’s Grateful Bean Café on North Walker, in Oklahoma City in 1993 with the intent to hire people down on their luck. The people that he hires are from half-way houses, Dale Rodgers Training Center, the Department of Corrections and court-related or mental-health organizations. The café hires people in need as a “hand-up not a hand-out.”

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 23.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.


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