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Bill of Rights Celebration to be hosted by The Onion’s Baratunde Thurston

By Darla Shelden
Contributing Writer

The Bill of Rights Celebration is an annual event hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma Foundation. This year’s venue will be the Science Museum of Oklahoma as ACLU-OK presents the 2011 Angie Debo Civil Liberties Award featuring the stand-up comedy of Baratunde Thurston.

Saturday evening, Nov. 12, doors open at 6:00 p.m. for a cash bar reception and silent auction. The program begins at 7:00 p.m.

“We are excited to announce this year’s keynote speaker will be Baratunde Thurston, Director of Digital for The Onion – an American news satire organization that features satirical articles reporting on international, national, local news, and non-satirical entertainment,” said Ryan Kiesel Executive Director of ACLU-OK.

The ACLU of Michigan honored him “for changing the political and social landscape one laugh at a time.”

A politically-active, technology-loving comedian, Thurston has a philosophy degree from Harvard. President Barack Obama once called him “someone I need to know.”He is the co-founder of the black political blog, Jack and Jill Politics.

Thurston has written for Vanity Fair and The UK Independent and appears on cable news regularly. He is the host of ‘Popular Science’s Future Of’ on Discovery Science. Harper Collins will publish his first book ‘How To Be Black’ in February 2012.

The ACLU of Oklahoma will present this year’s Angie Debo Civil Libertarian of the Year Award to Jana Lewis Harkins of Oklahoma City. Harkins has served on the ACLU-OK board of directors twice and also served as the board president. In 1987, she was recognized as the first African-American president of any ACLU affiliate in the country.
In addition to Harkins’ commitment to the ACLU, she has dedicated her life to civil rights. She has worked to increase voter participation and to educate people about women’s rights, racial justice, and human rights.

Harkins became involved with the Communications Workers of America Union, and became the first African American and first female elected as the Executive Vice President for the CWA Local 6016.

She saw what she felt was unfair treatment of women within the telephone company where she worked, prompting her to begin her fight for the fair treatment of women and workers. Harkins is currently working to defeat SQ 759. It is a proposal that could end equal opportunity programs in public employment, public education, and public contracting.

“Harkins has dedicated a lifetime to fight for equality, and her passion has inspired many,” said Ryan Kiesel executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma. “We are excited to honor such a trail-blazer.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma is a nonprofit, non-partisan, privately funded organization devoted exclusively to the defense and promotion of the individual rights secured by the U.S. and Oklahoma constitutions.

The ACLU of Oklahoma has a long history of advocating for the rights of institutionalized persons, educators, students, persons who speak out against governmental abuse, women and minorities of religious, ethnics or racial character.

James Nimmo, Board Secretary, ACLU-OK said, “I want to invite all Oklahoma citizens who appreciate the civil rights guaranteed to all of us by the Bill of Rights to come and meet our new executive director, Ryan Kiesel, and the other Board members of the Oklahoma ACLU affiliate. Civil rights are illimitable, not rationed to the poor or controlled by the rich, but they do need defending. Come see who we are and how you can join us.”

Tickets are $50 in advance, or $25 for students, and can be purchased online at

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