Saturday, December 13, 2014

LGBT Rights are Human Rights

by Sharon Bishop-Baldwin

A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
via Facebook

Friends, all of the accolades we receive are special, for different reasons, but today's award was meaningful because it acknowledges that LGBT rights are human rights.

When Mary and I got up to receive our award and make some comments, I noted that looking around the room, I saw black, white, Latino, Middle Eastern, Christian, Jew, Muslim, male, female, young and old. But after listening to all but one of the speeches (one more came after us), what really struck me were our similarities!

From the UN Free & Equal Campaign
A Muslim speaker talked about having lawmakers propose and pass bills meant to curb his community's freedoms. A Latino speaker talked about bias in society because of differences (in his case a foreign accent). To a person, every speaker who went before us said some phrase or discussed some issue or idea that we ourselves have said about our own LGBT community -- from "Keep the faith" and "Be a voice for the voiceless" to talk of death threats and the work that remains to be done.

It was so meaningful to be in a room full of people who are fighting the same fights right alongside us, revealing how we're really so much the same.

We thank the Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Alliance for the honor and especially Bill Bryant of the Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association for nominating us.

“Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.”

(Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Human Rights Day in Pictures

Adam Soltani poses with his award. Photo credit: Imam Imad Enchassi

Some of our Favorite Photos from the 2014 Human Rights Awards

Collected from Facebook


Maya Martinez accepted an award for her mother, Sonya Martinez. Credit: Beautiful Dream Society.

Carlos Ortiz accepts his award in the chamber of
the Oklahoma House of Representatives
After all of the awards were presented, Mr. Ortiz, who is
a journalist by profession, interviewed a fellow award
winner, Carlos Tello.

"At least 23 members of ‪#‎yesalldaughters‬ are at the capital
today to represent and accept a 2014 Human Rights Award."
Photo: Traci Morales
After the awards program, some supporters of "Yes All Daughters"
stepped into the Capitol Rotunda for a group photograph.
"Yes All Daughters" was nominated for the 2014 Human
Rights Award because they stood up for the personal
security of all people.


"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."
-- Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

A Memorable Human Rights Day

Photo courtesy Carlos Ortiz

A Message from Wilfredo Santosrivera

It was a Happy Human Rights Day at the Capitol. For one day in the Oklahoma House Chamber, grassroots advocates met to recognize the achievements of a diverse group of people of all ages and colors. A collage if you will, like Carlos Tello's mural in the Hall of Governors on the second floor of the Capitol. All making a contribution in the mission of human and civil rights for all.

Like "Yes ALL Daughters", who were recognized for their contribution to the cause of human rights.

From Cristen Claire, via Facebook
Like Mary and Sharon Bishop-Baldwin, who proved that persistence and dedication pay off. And Vicki Miles-LaGrange, who believes in standing up for justice. And Santiaga Quiñónez, a little old lady, poor economically and in health, but who roared like a lion when she talked about her prison ministry. And other advocates like Bill Carmack, and Jeff Hamilton, whose wisdom and experience enriched this beautiful meeting of souls and minds.

Not to mention the valuable contributions of Carlos Ortiz, Mohan Chandran, Akash Patel, Adam Soltani, Claudia Rossavik, Bob Lemon, Sonya Martinez.

And advocates like Ahiezer Black, who always give 100% to the cause. And Christina Mizirl, who asks us all to give at least 10%, everyday to humanity. A great investment for us all.

It was not a perfect event, but it was our day to enjoy and we did.

We did it without a budget. We thank Tim, COCINA DE MINO, for going beyond the call of duty for three years in a row and thank you Ramiro from LA OAXAQUENA for your contribution to the cause. We loved the food.

We love the people and thank you all for making it a memorable Human Rights Day, and thank you Wallace Collins for your leadership of the Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Alliance. Sorry you could not be with us and hope that your meeting with our President Obama went well.

Hasta la vista, amigos!


Friday, December 5, 2014

Mary and Sharon Bishop-Baldwin

Mary and Sharon Bishop-Baldwin: 2014 Human Rights Award Winners
Tulsa, OK
Nominated by Bill Bryant

On November 3, 2004, the day after Oklahoma's state constitution was amended to ban same-sex marriage, Mary Bishop and Sharon Baldwin, along with another couple, filed a challenge in federal court in Tulsa. They wanted the state to recognize, in law, their right to marry.

On January 14, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Terence C. Kern ruled in Bishop v. Oklahoma that Oklahoma's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. But, the enforcement of his ruling was stayed, pending an appeal.

Ultimately, on October 6th of this year, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal from the State of Oklahoma. Mary and Sharon were free to wed, which they did on the same day.

Informed of their nomination for this year's Human Rights award, Sharon Bishop-Baldwin stated, "We represent thousands of LGBT people who did not have the ability to stand up for themselves on the marriage issue, and we always accept accolades on their behalf, as well."

Mary and Sharon are among a group of Oklahomans who are being honored with this year's Human Rights Award. You can find the complete list of winner on our blog post titled, "2014 Human Rights Award Winners" (December 3, 2014).

“Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.”

(Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

"The Welcome"

Enjoy this 3-minute Bollywood-style video from the United Nations Free & Equal Campaign!

Ahiezer Black

Ahiezer Black: A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
Oklahoma City
Nominated by Wilfredo Santosrivera

Through his J.O.Y. - The Free Resources Clinic he has and is serving the community of OK in the areas of health, education and human rights advocacy. He networks with the Diabetes Association and other organizations and individuals in order to improve the life condition of those in need but with little, if any, economic or other resources.

From the website of J.O.Y. – The Free Resources Clinic:

“J.O.Y - The Free Resources Clinic is a faith-based organization providing free information and health resources to those who are either uninsured or underinsured and without access to available care services in the Oklahoma City community.  The primary focus is on healthy literacy as well as prevention, intervention and advocacy.

“Health literacy does not discriminate due to a patient's age or years of education. Health literacy includes the ability to understand prescription medications, discharge instructions, consent forms, appointment scheduling, requests for information, and the ability to negotiate complex healthcare organizations that offer a variety of services in multiple locations.

“The mission of the J.O.Y – The Free Resources Clinic. Inc. becomes even more profound on vulnerability and unmet health care needs. High rates of poverty, low education rates, and poor health behaviors help to contribute to the widening gap between the health of Hispanics, African American and American Indians and the rest of the population. Compared to the US rate, a great number of Hispanics are more likely to suffer from tuberculosis, a higher percent more likely to suffer from alcoholism, an unknown percentage more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes mellitus. With these staggering health inequalities, J.O.Y – The Free Resources Clinic. Inc., puts efforts into improving the quality of health care in the targeted location. J.O.Y. is not just a Hispanic Organization, but seeks to provide Resources and Services to primarily the Hispanic, Black and Native American Communities of Central Oklahoma and soon the state.”

“Everyone has the right to education….”

(Article 26 of the UDHR)

Bill Carmack

Dr. Bill Carmack: A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
Norman, OK
Nominated by Jay Wilkinson

Dr. William R. Carmack is the chair emeritus at the University of Oklahoma's Communications Department and a member of the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame. He became a faculty member at OU in 1958.

In 1961, Dr. Carmack was instrumental in working with others to form the Southwest Center for Human Relations studies at OU. At the time, it was one of only seven such centers in the country.
The Center’s first focus was to expedite desegregation in the Southwestern states and soon included efforts to expand opportunities for American Indians through course work, conferences, and individual meetings and through the creation of community action groups.

Dr. Carmack’s legacy includes work for Federal District Judge Luther Bohanan, who ordered the desegregation of Oklahoma City Public Schools in the 1960’s. He also worked for Senator Fred Harris, serving as his administrative assistant in 1965.

Dr. Carmack served the Bureau of Indian Affairs during the Johnson and Nixon administrations. In 1968, he was appointed to become the first director of the National Council on Indian Opportunity. During that time, there was a major transfer of operations from the Bureau of Indian Affairs directly to tribes throughout the country.

Jay Wilkinson writes about Dr. Carmack’s support for the desegregation of the Oklahoma City Public Schools: “As a result of his input and action, Bill received many personal letters filled with hatred, hostility and profanity, not unlike what my father received when Prentice Gautt broke the athletic color code at OU.”

Wilkinson summarizes: “Bill… has many distinguished accomplishments in the important areas of civil rights activity and interpersonal relationships.”

“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.”

(Article 26 of the UDHR)

Mohan Chandran

Mohan Chandran: A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
Shawnee, OK
Nominated by Father Paul Zahler

As Co-Director of the National Institute on Developmental Delays he has served the cause of Human Rights locally, nationally and internationally. His collaboration in the USA, in India, Mexico and in other countries has improved the life condition of people with disabilities. His human rights advocacy is constant and his creativity continues to help make breakthroughs for this vulnerable and under-served community.

The National Institute On Development Delays (NIDD) is a national resource center based in Shawnee, OK, with a global outlook that strives to help children with developmental delays and their families world wide.

“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

(Article 3 of the UDHR)

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff Hamilton: A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
Oklahoma City
Nominated by Michael Korenblit

Jeff ministered to students who were wounded at the Kent State shootings in 1970. Jeff served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1986 through 1994. He was recognized for his leadership in issues related to health and mental health, domestic violence, education, at risk youth and international development. He served as chairman of the Oklahoma County Democratic Party from 1995-2003. Jeff also served as chairman of the SKIL Advisory Board for Homeless High School Students through Youth Services for Oklahoma County.

At the present time he is Legislative Chair for the Interfaith Alliance Foundation of Oklahoma, which he served as President from 2004 to 2012. He also serves on the advisory board of the Injury Prevention Services of the Oklahoma State Department of Health

“Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”

(Article 28 of the UDHR)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bob Lemon

Robert D. Lemon: A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
Oklahoma City
Nominated by Darla Shelden

Philanthropist and retired oil rights lawyer in Oklahoma and Texas, Bob Lemon is a longtime activist who is committed to furthering human rights work begun by he and his late wife, Mary Lou. Bob describes Mary Lou and himself as believers that all people are entitled to both equal protections under the law and universal respect as children of God particularly regarding sexual orientation.

He does everything in his power to advance equality, peace, understanding, and the betterment of all people.

Lemon has also worked to support issues such as strengthening public education, public transportation, and prison justice, to name a few.

I wholeheartedly nominate Robert D. Lemon for this award. I believe that Bob is representative of everything that the Human Rights Award stands for.

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

(Article 2 of the UDHR)

Sonya Martinez

Sonya Martinez: A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
Yukon, OK
Nominated by Hilda De Leon Xavier

A trauma survivor and overcomer herself, Sonya Martinez has an art for empowering people by developing personal and professional strategies that help advance them in their destiny. She served as an Associate Pastor in Corpus Christi, Texas, and it provided her the opportunity to lead various women’s conferences and mission trips into Mexico, South and Central America. It was these experiences that strengthened her passion for fighting for the rights of those who suffer injustices. In 2008, Sonya helped found a local organization in Corpus Christi dedicated to eradicating modern day slavery in South Texas through preventative efforts. Sonya’s experience and passion as the founder of Blue Nation led her to pioneer the first ever shelter for victims of human trafficking in Lesotho. BDS was established in 2011, with Sonya as Africa Director. In 2012, Sonya and team opened the Hand of Hope Transformation Center in Lesotho, Africa, for survivors of human trafficking.

"BDS," the Beautiful Dream Society, is an active participant in Oklahoma’s Anti-Human Trafficking Task force. Sonya and her team took the lead in establishing the first state certified shelter in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  

“No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

(Article 4 of the UDHR)

Vicki Miles-LaGrange

Vicki Miles-LaGrange: A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
Oklahoma City
Nominated by Wilfredo Santosrivera and Blanca Sumner

Vicki Miles-LaGrange is the Chief U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Oklahoma. She was the first African-American woman to be sworn in as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma. She was also the first African-American female elected to the Oklahoma Senate.

Judge Miles-LaGrange is recognized for serving the cause of human rights on and off the bench, in the Oklahoma Legislature, and in her community

“All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.”

(Article 7 of the UDHR)

Christina Mizirl

Christina Mizirl: A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
Oklahoma City
Nominated by Wilfredo Santosrivera

Christina has provided immigrants her valuable services, even when they did not have the means of paying for her representation. As an advocate of human and civil rights, she represents the first line of defense. Always ready and always available to those most in need. I know many immigration attorneys but she is the one I turn to for the toughest problems. Her outstanding professionalism does all human and civil rights advocates credit. I highly recommend her selection as one of the human rights advocates "par excellence!"

“Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.”

(Article 6 of the UDHR)

Carlos Ortiz

Carlos Ortiz: A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
Oklahoma City
Nominated by Rosio Rodriguez

Mr. Carlos Ortiz is a journalist who has lived in Oklahoma for more than 25 years. He is currently the Chief Editor of El Nacional newspaper and has a weekly TV show called Cada Semana were he brings up news and commentaries about the undocumented, the immigrants, and members of the Oklahoma Community.

Mr. Ortiz has also been an advocate for the education of the Hispanic youth, promoting the formation of a group of volunteers to address dropouts. He is also concerned about voter participation for which he is trying to promote his idea of Voto en Familia -- that is Absentee Ballots for Hispanics. He's also constantly working and writing against School Bullying in Oklahoma Schools. His latest work in this field was an exclusive report on the death of an Hispanic teenager in Muskogee – the possible victim of Bullying in a local middle school.

These are only a few reasons why we believe that Mr. Ortiz deserve the Human Rights Award.

“Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.”

(Article 21 of the UDHR)

Akash Patel

Akash Patel: A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
Oklahoma City
Nominated by Hilda De Leon Xavier

Akash Patel supports human rights in Oklahoma by being an advocate for people without a voice, raising awareness of critical issues for young undocumented immigrants, and expanding opportunities for others that were denied to him. Akash and his family came to the United States as legal immigrants, but due to complications in the immigration system, they were forced to navigate that system as unauthorized immigrants for 17 years. Even after getting their green cards after this time, Akash's sister was kicked off of the application due to her age.

Inspired by his experiences, Akash launched a successful non-profit organization to support undocumented immigrants in Oklahoma, Aspiring Americans Initiative. AAI serves Oklahoma’s undocumented immigrant youth by providing free trainings to educators about relevant resources for migrant students, hosting clinics with pro bono attorneys, conducting know-your-rights forums, and providing grants and scholarships to families in need.

“Everyone has the right to a nationality.”

“No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.”

(Article 15 of the UDHR)

Santiaga Quiñónez

Santiaga Quiñónez: A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
Oklahoma City
Nominated by Otilia Sorto

La senora Santiaga, ha dedicado su vida a ayudar a hombres y mujeres en prision, les ayuda en diferentes maneras visitandolos, enviandoles correspondencia, y su ayuda es muy grande y pocas personas lo sabemos.

Ms. Santiaga has dedicated her life to helping men and women in prison, helping them in different ways -- visiting them, sending them correspondence. Your help is very large, and few people know.

“In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.”

(Article 29 of the UDHR)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Claudia Rossavik, MD

Claudia Rossavik, MD: A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
Oklahoma City
Nominated by Otilia Sorto

La Doctora Claudia es una persona que siempre esta ayudando a la comunidad hispana. Defendiendo el derecho de las personas sobre todo a la mujer. Ella ayuda localmente y en El Salvador tambien.

Dr. Claudia is a person who is always helping the Hispanic community -- defending the right of people, especially women. She helps locally and in El Salvador as well.

She is recognized for her health promotion work in poor communities and helping women who have suffered from domestic violence.

“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.”

(Article 22 of the UDHR)

Adam Soltani

Adam Soltani: A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
Oklahoma City
Nominated by Bill Bryant and Jeanine Soltani

As the executive director of CAIR Oklahoma, Adam Soltani's mission is, "To enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding."

CAIR is the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and their purpose is "Defending Rights, Defeating Intolerance."

Earlier this year, a state representative from Oklahoma attacked the freedom of religion of thousands of Muslims in our state. He asserted that, "Islam is not even a religion."

Faced with such a display of ignorance and intolerance, Adam Soltani responded with civility and reason.

Adam’s mother, Jeanine Soltani, writes: “Adam fights daily for human rights in his job as executive director of CAIR Oklahoma. Every person who calls, emails or shows up asking for help receives his full attention and the resources available to him to help. He has taken on formidable opponents in order to get equal rights for others. Some of these include school boards, law enforcement and politicians. Although he has received threats of violence against himself and his family, Adam has remained steadfast to the cause of human rights. As his mother, I worry and pray for his safety everyday but I know that others are safer due to his strength and dedication to human rights. For these reasons, and the fact that Adam is a truly the kindest person I know, I nominate him for the Human Rights award.”

“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.”

(Article 18 of the UDHR)

Carlos Tello

Carlos Tello: A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
Oklahoma City
Nominated by Otilia Fuentes

Carlos es el primer hispano que ha tenido la capacidad para poder dejar huella en el Capitolio pintando una de las mejores obras de arte. No pido para El un reconociemiento de los derechos humanos, sino algo que lo distinga ya que somos muchos los hispnaos que nos sentmos orgullosos, ya que El puso hel nombre de los hispanos en alto.

Carlos is a noted artist whose mural, “Beyond the Centennial,” is on display in the Oklahoma Capitol building. He is the first Hispanic to have a work of art displayed so prominently in our state capitol.

The Oklahoma Arts Council has this description of the artwork on their website:

“…Representing Oklahoma's ongoing advancement and future, the right section symbolizes the cutting-edge industries driving our state into the 21st century such as technology, medicine, research, energy, and space exploration…. The industrious figures working on the machines testify to our credence in the state motto, ‘Labor Conquers All.’ Oklahomans' goodwill, heroism, and unconquerable spirit, defining qualities that carry us forward, are represented by the fireman in the upper right who breaks through the rubble to help victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.

“The mural culminates in the center with the universal ‘Every Man’ who represents every Oklahoman. Carrying the state in his hands, he metaphorically lifts Oklahoma, represented by the state's outline and Osage shield emblem from the state flag, upward into our boundless future.”

“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.”


“Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.”

(Article 27 of the UDHR)

"Yes All Daughters"

Yes All Daughters: A 2014 Human Rights Award Winner
Norman, OK
Nominated by Stacey Wright

Yes All Daughters was created in Norman, OK, in November 2014 to address allegations that multiple rape victims were bullied and sexually harassed out of Norman High School.

With only two weeks of planning and execution, the grassroots effort of the Yes All Daughters group -- a collaboration between students and adult organizers -- pulled off a peaceful protest at Norman High on November 24, and gained worldwide support and news coverage when their effort went viral. Hundreds of Norman High School students participated in the protest. They chanted slogans such as, "Transfer is not the answer" and "no more bullying."

The Norman Police Captain who led the police presence at the protest commended the group on their ability to lead the peaceful protest "without a single incident, not even a verbal altercation."

Norman Public Schools has agreed to meet the group’s demands and implement more stringent policies regarding bullying and sexual harassment, as well as incorporating curriculum to address these issues. They've agreed to hire a full-time advocate to oversee complaints and implementation.

For standing up for the personal security of all people, Yes ALL Daughters will receive a 2014 Human Rights Award.

“Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”

(Article 20 of the UDHR)

2014 Human Rights Award Winners

The Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Alliance is proud to announce the winners of the 2014 Human Rights Award:

Mary and Sharon Bishop-Baldwin
Ahiezer Black
Bill Carmack
Mohan Chandran
Jeff Hamilton
Bob Lemon
Sonya Martinez
Vicki Miles-LaGrange
Christina Mizirl
Carlos Ortiz
Akash Patel
Santiaga Quiñónez
Claudia Rossavik
Adam Soltani
Carlos Tello
"Yes All Daughters"

A celebration of these award winners will be held on Human Rights Day -- Wednesday, December 10th -- at 10am in the House chamber of the Oklahoma State Capitol. The Chairman of the OK Universal Human Rights Alliance is Wallace Collins, and he will serve as the master of ceremonies.

Following the awards program, a lunch will be served. People who wish to attend are asked to call Wilfredo Santosrivera at (405) 631-3027 in advance to let him know you will be attending.

The Oklahoma State Capitol is
located on Lincoln Boulevard
at NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City.
The practice of honoring human rights activists in our state began many years ago with the old Oklahoma Human Rights Commission, which was established during the 1960's. The commission was abolished by the Legislature a couple of years ago. Since then, a coalition of organizations has come together to continue the tradition of recognizing leading Oklahomans who, by their words and example, help to define the meaning of Human Rights where we live.

Your Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association is proud to support this worthy and historic program. We invite all of our members and friends to participate in the celebration of these human rights champions.

Over the course of the coming days, we will publish on our blog ("To Reaffirm Faith") a short profile of each award winner. The web address for the blog is ...

We wish to express our thanks to each of the people who submitted a nomination.

We hope to see you on December 10th! 

Many thanks to Wilfredo Santosrivera

... for his tireless work in organizing the Human Rights Award program. Wilfredo is a treasure in our state!

"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."
-- Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)