Turkish politician Leyla Zana fought feverishly for Kurdish rights in her country of Turkey, which eventually landed her in prison in 1994. She was the first Kurdish woman to hold a seat in Turkey’s parliament, and caused a scandal right off the bat by speaking her native language of Kurdish on the parliament floor. The Kurdish language was legalized in 1991, the year she was sworn in, but it was not permitted in “public spaces.” However, bigger issues arose when she joined the Democracy Party in 1994, a party with Kurdish sympathies. Immediately, she and many of top members of the party were arrested and charged with treason. Additionally, Zana was accused of being a member of the Kurdish Workers Party (PPK), a party that was seen as a threat by the Turkish government. During her time in prison she was awarded a number of awards by various European governments, including the Rafto Prize (1994), the Sakharov Prize (1995), and the Bruno Kreisky Award (1995). She was a topic of contention between the European Union (EU) and Turkey when the latter was trying to gain membership in the EU in 1995. In prison Zana wrote Writings From Prison (Human Rights & Democracy), which paints the violations that her country was making. In 2004 she was released and she continued her fight in parliament. Since then she has been in and out of prison for her views on the rights of the Kurdish people. These include dates as recent as 2016, and just last year (2018) she was removed from parliament all together for missing a number of meetings, though she was in prison for the most of it. This has not prevented Zana from continuing her fight for the rights of her people.
Maziar Bahari May 25, 1967 to Present
An Iranian-Canadian journalist, film maker, and human rights activist, Maziar Bahari came into prominence with his first film The Voyage of the Saint Louis (1995) that looked at the issues of how the West rejected and ignored the plight of the 900 plus Jewish passengers trying to escape the coming tragedy of the Third Rich in 1939. Bahari was inspired to make this film because of what he had learned in school that the Jewish people were dispersed in North America up to the 1950’s. Before he took religious studies he had believed that the Americans and Canadians had always been on the side of humanitarian efforts during the Holocaust. By making this film Bahari was the first Muslim to make a film on the Holocaust, something that would eventually “haunt” him during his imprisonment in Iran. He was arrested in 2009 for being a western journalist, the state claiming that all western journalist were spies, something he confessed to on live TV. The confession was dismissed by his family and his colleagues because the confession was made under duress. He was released by the state, in order for him to spy on forces working against it in the autumn of 2009. However, Bahari never did so and returned to London afterwards, where the majority of his work began to focus on imprisoned journalists.
Anna Jameson May 19, 1794 to March 17, 1860
Anna Jameson was an author and woman’s rights activist from England. She is most famous for her travel memoirs that told of her experiences in a romantic fashion. She was an eloquent writer and was able to immerse herself with the culture that she had traveled too. Much of the world that she had seen was due to the fact of her early career as a governess, her position as a caretaker for children allowed her to see the world more freely. With that in mind she used her knowledge and experiences to give lectures on the need to give women an equal opportunity in both education and the workplace.
Spare Change A virtual reality journey by Donnie Ocean
I spent eight years of my life as a homeless youth. It revealed to me the unsettling realities surrounding chronic homelessness. I was lucky enough to have escaped that loathsome lifestyle; though, I thought it would own me for forever. Today, I have a life of love, health, safety, and security. However, I have not been able escape the feelings still worn on faces of so many, those still lost and forgotten, wander the streets homeless.
I put part of myself into this film, pieces of my past that still creep up on me from time to time. I let my experience of the city's street-life guide me through this VR journey. I return to living in the alleys of LA to better understand the people who still live there and why they are there. The gentle folks who helped me put this story together are penniless angels who have no realistic way out of poverty’s grasp. Still, they are wonderfully kind people despite the heavy burdens they bare.
My goal with this piece is to link love and understanding to people of all varying social classes.
Thank you very much for taking the time to see my work.
Sincerely, Donnie Ocean Creative Director, Mean Cat Entertainment
Coretta Scott King April 27, 1927 to January 30, 2006
Remembered as “the First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement,” Coretta Scott King was not only the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but a strong leader in her own right. King much like her husband grew up during the period in American history were the social structures were more skewed than they are today, and as a result of marrying her husband she did all she could in supporting him and the movement. From the start, King made an effort to include more women in positions of power, and to encourage women to take part in changing the country for the better. After the assassination of her husband in 1958, King took control of the moment and was the de-facto leader. With this she became a leader in her own right, as she expanded the demands of the Civil Rights movement to include LGBT rights. King is also the reason for Martin Luther King Day being a national holiday, she used her own inspirations to make sure that her husband's memory would live on as a cause for improvement within the United States. She was a pacifist and often used her platform to advocate for world peace, and during the Vietnam War, she advocated for its end.
Harper Lee April 28, 1926 to February 19, 2016
The renowned novelist behind To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee became famous for this work that was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1960. Lee explored rape, gender roles, racial inequality, and unequal access to the justice system all from the perspective of a child encountering Southern culture in the 1930’s. Lee was able to use her own personal history of abuse to help her formulate her famous novel.
George Takei April 20, 1937 to Present
Best known for his role in the hit TV Series Star Trek, George Takei kept his sexuality to himself during his long and rewarding career and only revealed it to the public in 2005. From then on he has used his notoriety to fight for LGBT rights and condemn racism in the United States. In the last decade he has used every opportunity he could to expose injustices to people of the LGBT community, such as posting funny quips on Twitter directed to the current administration to highlight a misdeed. In this regard, Takei has served the community as an activist that people could put their trust behind earning him many awards for his activism including the LGBT Humanist Award.