2014 Honorees

Domestic Honoree – Freedom Schools

Global Exchange honored the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Schools, free schools for African-Americans living in the South during the height of the Civil Rights movement. Conceived first by Charles Cobb, an activist with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the schools were launched in 1964, as part of the Freedom Summer. By the end of the summer, more than 40 schools had been opened, serving over 2,500 students. Through critical inquiry and civic engagement, the Freedom Schools inspired a generation of students to take action for voting rights, civil rights, and justice.

Freedom Schools visionary Charlie Cobb and Dream Defenders, Executive Director, Phillip Agnew took the stage to accept the award. Both channeled the power of history in honoring the struggle for civil rights and demanded that while we commemorate this history, we must recognize that there is still work to be done.

Bernice Johnson Reagon, legendary songwriter, singer and civil rights advocate, unfortunately was not able to join us on Thursday but sent in remarks.

International Honoree – María Estela Barco Huerta

Ms. Barco has played a leading role in organizing Agro-Ecology Learning Exchanges in Chiapas, Mexico at DESMI (Desarrollo Económico Social de los Mexicanos Indígenas), a Mexican non-governmental organization based in the state of Chiapas. These exchanges bring together activists from across Latin America to confront the challenges of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), encroaching agribusinesses, and loss of value and culture for peasant farmers in the region and to create innovative solutions. As Chiapas was and still is ‘ground zero’ for NAFTA and its devastating impact on Mexican agriculture, Ms. Barco’s work to create solutions for small indigenous farmers is crucial.

People’s Choice Award – The Cuban Five

Five Cuban agents who were working in Miami, FL, in the 1990s to infiltrate groups openly plotting attacks Cuban civilians, the Cuban Five were arrested following lengthy surveillance by the FBI. The situation surrounding the case of the Cuban Five should be understood as a microcosm for relations between the United States and Cuba at that time, and into the present day. Their capture, detention, and sentencing has been widely criticized, including the call for their release by eight international Nobel Prize winners and Amnesty International.

The Global Exchange People’s Choice Award marks the first time these men have received recognition in the U.S., and the first time a family member (María Eugenia Guerrero Rodriguez, the sister of Antonio Guerrero) of the Cuban 5 has spoken publicly in the U.S. on their behalf. Read letters from the Five here.