By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The public is invited to attend the presentation of the 2018 Human Rights Awards on Saturday, December 8, in the 4th Floor House Chamber of the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. The free event will take place from 10 a.m. to noon.
The program will recognize Oklahoma individuals or organizations that have made a significant contribution to human rights. The event is held in conjunction with International Human Rights Day which is recognized on Dec. 10 each year.
The event will be led by Wilfredo Rivera, OKUHRA chair. The awards will be announced by UNA-OKC board member Bill Bryant and presented by Amy Hinton, OKUHRA member.
Speakers will include former award recipients Dr. Nyla Ali Khan, author and professor at Rose State College and Sara Bana, founder of Civic Services Community Advocacy and the Ending Violence Everywhere Coalition; and Bansari Mehta, UNA-OKC Membership Director.
Following the ceremony, a complementary awards luncheon, sponsored by UNA-OKC, will be held in the Senate Assembly room #535. Those staying for lunch should RSVP to OKUHRA at 405-631-3027.
The twelve 2018 honorees are: Silapberdi Berdiyev, Kayla Bonewell, James M. Branum, Mark Faulk, Victor Gorin, Adriana Loper, Ian O’Kidhain, Wilfredo Santos-Rivera, Bianca Valencia, Marilyn Vann and Michael A. Veasey. Akash and Anand Patel will receive the award on behalf of the Happy World Foundation.
Born in Turkmenistan, Silapberdi Berdiyev is Director of Academics and Counseling at Dove Public Schools where he has worked since 2010. His community involvement includes services with organizations and businesses such as OETA, Food Bank of Oklahoma, American Red Cross, YMCA, and Latino Community Development Agency, the Metropolitan Library System, OKCPS, Dream ACT Oklahoma, University of Oklahoma Health and Science Center, and Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
A pastor and an attorney, James Branum is the key founder of the Center for Conscience in Action (formerly The Oklahoma Coalition for Conscientious Objection) and the Oklahoma Objector Church. Both organizations are dedicated to peace by opposing war and supporting resisters within the military.
A native of Oklahoma City, Rev. Kayla Bonewell earned a BA in Religion from Oklahoma City University, a Master of Liberal Arts from Naropa University, and a Master of Divinity from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. Ordained in the United Church of Christ, Bonewell has experience as a hospital chaplain, campus minister, social justice activist, youth minister, associate pastor, and now as pastor at two UCC congregations: Church of the Open Arms and Cathedral of Hope.
Mark Faulk is the Chair of the Oklahoma County Democratic Party and was a candidate for Oklahoma State House District 88 in 2014. A longtime activist, he is a leader in the Occupy OKC movement. Faulk is an author, radio talk show host, and documentary film producer.
A dedicated activist for labor rights and the LGBTQ community, Victor Gorin has earned associate degrees from Rose State College in business Mid-Management, Criminal Justice, Spanish and Political Science. Now pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Oklahoma, Gorin aspires to become a parole officer. He is a former board member of the local Amnesty International chapter, and an executive board member of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
Born in Palmira, Columbia, Adriana Barona Loper has been a social activist for nearly three decades. In 2004 she moved to the United States and led the University of Oklahoma’s first forum examining the political and economic status in Venezuela. She has a master’s degree in Arts in Leadership, from the Mid-America Christian University and is treasurer of the Oklahoma Hispanic Political Action Council.
Ian O’Kidhain has worked in the U.S., Japan, and France, as a teacher and education coordinator. With a masters degree from Cambridge University, Ian is a regular speaker on the topic of Neuroscience of Empathy and has led workshops on Engineering Empathy, Techniques, Exercises and Meditations and The Psychology of the Classroom and Meditation as an Alternative to Classroom Discipline. O’Kidhain works with law enforcement implementing a tool he created called the BRIDGE (Biased Reducing Implemental Device to Grow Empathy), which is designed to help increase human empathy. It is currently used by CLEET, which certifies law enforcement officer across Oklahoma.
Born in Puerto Rico, Wilfredo Santos-Rivera received his BA in English from the University of Puerto Rico and an MA in Education and Supervision from the University of Phoenix. After moving to Oklahoma City, he taught Spanish at Villa Teresa Catholic Schools. He was the Amnesty Program Director and a former Board Member of the Oklahoma City Public School System. In 2008 he began serving on the OK Human Rights Commission. In 2013 it became the Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Alliance. He has served as its chairman since its formation.
Marilyn Vann is president and a director of the nonprofit Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association, which educates the public on the history, culture, and political rights of the African Indian peoples of the 5 Nations (Five Civilized Tribes). A citizen of the Cherokee nation of Oklahoma, Vann is president of the African Indians Foundation. She is a litigant in two Federal lawsuits that recently upheld enforcement of the 1866 treaty rights of the Cherokee Indian Freedmen Peoples tribal membership rights. Vann received a Statesman Award from the Cherokee Nation for her volunteerism as a Cherokee tribal member.
Oklahoma City born, Bianca Lopez Valencia, received a BA in Broadcast Journalism & Film at the University of Oklahoma in 2009. She worked at Telemundo network as a producer, reporter and assignment editor. After travelling to Chihuahua, Mexico on a missionary trip she was inspired to launch a successful campaign raising funds for the Make A Wish Foundation in Oklahoma. She now serves as lead designer for a luxury real estate company working with local Hispanic ad agencies.
Michael Veasey retired from the Oklahoma City Police Department after 35 years of service. A father of two sons, he has served as a Scout Master, District Commissioner and Assistant Council Commissioner. He later became a Wood Badge instructor for Adult Leadership Scout Training, the highest Scouts training level. A Rotary member, Veasey is involved in the “Reel Recovery” program. He takes individuals recovering from cancer on fly-fishing retreats to lakes across Oklahoma.
Happy World Foundation Inc. (HWF) was created by Oklahoma twins Akash and Anand Happy Patel after Happy was killed in a plane crash in Arizona in April 2018. The Foundation promotes cross-cultural understanding, diplomacy and global citizenship education in schools and communities worldwide. Programs such as the Happy School to College Pipeline Initiative has mentored hundreds of inner-city youth and provided them scholarships to attend college. The foundation’s professional development program has trained over 5,000 educators in multicultural and multilingual education. HWF’s programs have expanded educational and economic opportunities for Oklahomans to live in a happy world free of bigotry and racism.
Award nominations were submitted by the public and then evaluated by the Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Alliance board.
According to the OKHRA website, these citizens are united by their commitment to the values and principles expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
For more information, call 405-631-3027 or visit okhumanrights.org.