Ai Weiwei's Alcatraz Exhibition '@Large' Opens September 27th


This article was originally written by Andrew Dalton of SFist. Celebrated Chinese dissident, architect and artist Ai Weiwei's highly anticipated exhibition "@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz" will open this fall on September 27th and run through the end of April 2015. The exhibition will feature seven site-specific installations in four different locations on the former federal prison island, three of which are not normally open to the sightseeing public.

The exhibition is being put on by San Francisco's FOR-SITE foundation along with the stewards of the island at the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. According to this morning's official announcement, it will offer "a new cultural lens through which to experience the notorious military and federal penitentiary turned national park."

The works are meant to explore questions of human rights and freedom of expression in the context of incarceration, detainment and protest. Ai himself was secretly detained by the Chinese government for 81 days in 2011 on charges of tax evasion. Since his passport was revoked and he is still not permitted to leave the country, don't expect the artist to make an appearance at the site. The works were developed in Ai's Beijing studio.

From the official announcement:

The large-scale sculpture, sound, and mixed-media works will be installed in the two-story New Industries Building where “privileged” inmates were permitted to work; the main and psychiatric wards of the Hospital; the A Block cells, the only remaining section of the military prison that was constructed in the early 20th century; and the Dining Hall.

Aside from the dining hall, all of those locations are usually off limits to visitors. During the exhibition's five-month run, they will all be open to the ticket-buying public.

Tickets go on sale to the general public through Alcatraz Cruises next month on June 27th and will include access to the exhibition as well as the general Alcatraz audio tour. Tickets to Alcatraz typically sell out weeks in advance, but expect them to go even faster with the extra cultural draw. A limited number of same-day tickets will be set aside for anyone who can make it to the Early Bird boat at 8:45 a.m. daily. Tickets will be $50 for adults and juniors, $38.25 for children (5-11), and $48.25 for seniors.

[Official Site] Tickets via Alcatraz Cruises

Feature photo by Sam Breach.

Remembering the Grace of Dr. Maya Angelou

This week the literary and civil rights world lost an true heroine, advocate and mentor, Dr. Maya Angelou. She will be remembered not only for her pursuit of justice and her literary genius, but also for the graceful way in which she conveyed her messages. We believe that the below video captures this grace. Her words and spirit will be missed. To read about her legacy, click here.

Congratulations to Global Witness for Winning the TED Prize AND the Skoll Award for Entrepreneurship!


NEW YORK, March 5, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- TED and the Skoll Foundation are proud to join in making a unique announcement: each will direct their annual million-dollar prizes to Global Witness. TED will grant its award to Charmian Gooch, Global Witness Co-Founder and Director. The Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship will honor all three Co-Founders and Directors – Patrick Alley, Charmian Gooch, and Simon Taylor – and the organization itself for its extraordinary innovation in disrupting an unjust and unsustainable status quo.

Though TED and the Skoll Foundation separately decided to honor Gooch and Global Witness with their 2014 awards, the organizations are making a joint announcement to highlight the value, merit and distinct contributions of this cutting edge investigative and campaigning organization. For 20 years, Global Witness has run pioneering analysis and campaigns against natural resource-related conflict and corruption and associated environmental and human rights abuses.

"I am thrilled to announce Charmian Gooch as the 2014 TED Prize winner," said Chris Anderson, TED curator. "That both TED and Skoll independently selected Charmian and Global Witness as recipients of these prizes is a remarkable testament to their daring investigative and campaigning work. The TED Prize is granted annually to an inspiring individual with a world-changing wish – one that Charmian will reveal at the TED Conference in just two weeks' time."

TED, the nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, awards its annual prize to an extraordinary individual with a bold, creative vision to spark global change. The TED Prize leverages the TED community's resources and invests $1 million into a powerful, world-inspiring idea. 2014 TED Prize recipient Charmian Gooch will announce her wish live from the main stage at the annual TED Conference. The session will be broadcast globally for free on March 18 (6-7:45 pm PDT):

"Social entrepreneurs are, by definition, disruptors. Patrick, Charmian, and Simon's leadership epitomizes great social entrepreneurship in Global Witness's quest to expose global conflict, corruption, and environmental degradation, lifting millions out of poverty and protecting the environment. We are delighted to announce Patrick, Charmian, and Simon as among our 2014 Skoll Awardees," said Sally Osberg, President and CEO of the Skoll Foundation.

"Skoll and TED both connect and showcase inspiring, entrepreneurial, breakthrough innovators. We are thrilled to be working closely with our TED colleagues, who share our mission to catalyze social change."

The Skoll Foundation presents the Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship each year to transformative leaders who are disrupting the status quo, driving large-scale change, and are poised for even greater impact. Recipients of the Skoll Award gain leverage and scale through a global community of social entrepreneurs and other innovators dedicated to solving the world's most pressing problems. Global Witness's Patrick Alley, Charmian Gooch, and Simon Taylor will be honored along with other 2014 Skoll Awardees at the 11th Annual Skoll World Forum in Oxford, April 9-11.

"Everyone at Global Witness is honored and thrilled to receive these two prestigious awards, from two remarkable organizations," said Charmian Gooch, Co-Founder and Director of Global Witness. "They truly are a rocket boost to our work – making it possible for us to carry out even more cutting edge investigations, report on matters in the public interest, and launch hard hitting campaigns that challenge vested interests and change the system. I'm personally also very excited about the prospect of announcing the details of my TED Prize Wish live from the TED conference in March. This being our 20thAnniversary year, we couldn't have wished for a better birthday present."

About Global Witness

Founded in 1993, Global Witness is a UK not-for-profit based in London and Washington DC.

Global Witness investigates and campaigns to change the system by exposing the economic networks behind conflict, corruption and environmental destruction. The organization focuses on undertaking hard-hitting investigations into matters of public interest that expose the companies, the corrupt, the bankers, the corporate executives, and the middlemen of various kinds who willfully enable corruption to take place on a grand scale. Global Witness reports on these matters, and launches campaigns that change the terms of debate and set the global agenda.

Patrick Alley, Co-Founder & Director, Global Witness Since posing as a timber buyer in Global Witness's first investigation into the Thai-Khmer Rouge timber trade in 1995, Patrick has taken part in over fifty field investigations in South East Asia, Africa and Europe and in subsequent advocacy activities. Patrick has focused on Global Witness's campaigns on conflict resources, notably former Liberian President Charles Taylor's'arms for timber' trade, the minerals trade in Eastern DRC and more recently the Central African Republic, as well as providing strategic direction for Global Witness' work on forest issues, especially challenging industrial scale logging and land grabbing in the tropics. In addition, he is involved in the strategic leadership of Global Witness.

Charmian Gooch, Co-Founder & Director, Global Witness Charmian worked on Global Witness's first ever investigation into how the illegal timber trade between Cambodia and Thailandwas funding the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. Subsequent to that, Charmian developed and launched Global Witness's groundbreaking campaign to combat 'blood diamonds,' using detailed research and field investigations across Africa andEurope. Global Witness was nominated for the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for its work on conflict diamonds, and in 2005 the organization received the Gleitsman International Activist Award. Charmian has wide-ranging experience advocating for international policy solutions to address natural resource-related conflict and corruption. In addition, she is involved in the strategic leadership of Global Witness.

Simon Taylor, Co-Founder & Director, Global Witness Simon worked on Global Witness's first ever investigation into how the illegal timber trade between Cambodia and Thailand was funding the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. After that, Simon launched and led Global Witness's oil and corruption campaign inDecember 1999, after investigating companies and elite groups involved in this sector. This began the global call for transparency around payments by companies to governments for natural resources, leading to Global Witness's conception and co-launch of the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) campaign, which now consists of over 790 civil society organisations worldwide. Simon has detailed expertise of natural resource-related corruption and extensive advocacy experience, and continues to be at the forefront of the push for a global standard of revenue transparency legislation, as well as being actively involved in Global Witness's work to expose corruption in the sector.  In addition, he is involved in the strategic leadership of Global Witness.

For press inquiries: Andrea Pattison +44 7703 671 308

About the TED Prize The first TED Prize was awarded in 2005, born out of the TED Conference and a vision by the world's leading entrepreneurs, innovators, and entertainers to change the world – one wish at a time. The original prize: $100,000 and the TED community's range of talent and expertise. What began as an unparalleled experiment to leverage the resources of the TED community has evolved into an ambitious effort to spur global-scale change.

From Bono's the ONE Campaign ('05 recipient) to Jamie Oliver 's Food Revolution ('10 recipient) to JR's Inside Out Project ('11 recipient) and Sugata Mitra's School in a Cloud ('13 recipient), the TED Prize has helped to combat poverty, take on religious intolerance, improve global health, tackle child obesity, advance education, and inspire art around the world.

For Press Inquiries: Erin Allweiss +1 202 446 8265/

About the Skoll Foundation & the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship

The Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship distinguishes transformative leaders who are disrupting the status quo, driving large-scale change, and are poised for even greater impact. Recipients of the Skoll Award gain leverage and scale through a global community of social entrepreneurs and other innovators dedicated to solving the world's most pressing problems.

The 2014 Skoll Awardees will be honored at the 11th Annual Skoll World Forum in Oxford, April 9-11. Sign up to watch the live stream from Oxford here.

For press inquiries: Suzana Grego +1 650 331 1021/

Family Foundations Let Affluent Leave a Legacy


This article is reposted in its entirety from the New York Times and was originally written by Kerry Hannon.

Stephanie Cordes, a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, has a present from her father, Ron, that she treasures. It’s a handmade pink scrapbook, titled, “5 Life Lessons From Dad.”

Inside are whimsical photos of her with friends and family alongside typed pages containing his simple guidance. The chapters are: “Seek your passion.” “Do your best.” “Good enough is never good enough.” “No excuses.” “Make a difference.” “Go for it.”

She was moved. But what really touched her was a letter he wrote to her last fall, which concluded with: “You are my legacy.”

And she is, in more ways than one.

In mid-January, Ms. Cordes, 24, quit what she had called her dream job, working at Condé Nast, as an advertising sales assistant, to work full time for the Cordes Foundation, the nonprofit family foundation her father created when he and his two partners sold their firm, AssetMark Investment Services, to Genworth Financial in 2006 for $230 million.

“I am going to be the legacy of the foundation,” said Ms. Cordes, who is an only child. “It is really important that I am involved because it is going to be mine eventually.”

According to the most recent statistics, the number of family foundations like the Cordes Foundation has exploded since 2001. There are now over 40,000 family foundations in the United States, making grants totaling more than $21.3 billion a year, up from about 3,200 family foundations doling out $6.8 billion in 2001, according to the Foundation Center in Washington.

These nonprofits are on the upswing for several reasons. First, friendly tax breaks make the charitable vehicle appealing. And it offers philanthropists who want more control over their giving a way to give with fewer restrictions than would come with a donor-advised fund or writing a check to an established charity.

Then, too, there is often an underlying desire for baby boomers to instill in their children the significance of giving and compassion for those less privileged. A family foundation can curb a sense of entitlement that may come along with inheriting wealth.

The Council on Foundations defines a family foundation as one whose funds are derived from members of a single family. At least one family member must serve as an officer or board member of the foundation, and as the donor.

And you don’t have to be a billionaire to create one. Sixty percent of family foundations have assets of less than $1 million.

“We are not the Gates Foundation,” said Mr. Cordes, 55, who started his foundation with $10 million of the proceeds from the sale of his firm. “We have several less zeros on our balance sheet.” The challenge is “trying to figure out how you can really have an impact with a somewhat more modest amount of money,” he said.

“As a corporate C.E.O., I was involved in philanthropy,” he added. “My wife, Marty, and I gave money to lots of different things, but when I sold the company, I realized that I was able to open some personal bandwidth for myself that would give me an opportunity to have more direct participation in philanthropy.”

Instilling the value of giving back in their daughter was certainly part of the plan. Stephanie was 16 when her parents started the foundation. She knew that her father was selling the business, but she didn’t have any concept of family wealth, or the amounts involved, said Mr. Cordes.

“We never tried to push her into the foundation, but we wanted to put her in a position where those opportunities were available if she wanted to do them,” he said.

Establishing the foundation has also allowed Mr. Cordes, like many baby boomers starting an encore career midlife, to ponder the question of how to “move from success to significance,” he said. “How do you leave a legacy?”

Mr. Cordes beams with pride that Stephanie is committing herself to following that legacy, and will soon take a seat on the foundation’s board, which consists of her parents and four outside members. “I cannot think of anything cooler than that,” he said.

Creating a foundation requires much more than money. Among other things, foundation founders must familiarize themselves with the myriad tax and other regulations involved and carve out the time required to review programs for funding.

Traditionally, the chief complaints about creating a family foundation have been the time and cost involved, but that seems to be getting under control as more firms specializing in advising families are cropping up.

Costs vary by asset size and level of service and typically run the gamut from $5,000 for a plain vanilla setup up to around $35,000, said Elliot Berger, managing director of Arabella Advisors, a firm that specializes in philanthropic strategies and foundation management. Another, Advisors in Philanthropy, a nonprofit based in Chicago, offers web seminars and other educational and networking opportunities.

Ron and Marlys Boehm of Santa Barbara, Calif., were able to set up their $1 million family foundation, the Boehm-Gladen Foundation, in three days for around $10,000, with the help of Foundation Source, a private foundation advisory group, based in Fairfield, Conn.

“Our adviser made it very painless and quick,” Mr. Boehm said. “Although family foundations have grown in popularity, we found there were still not a lot of advisers who are knowledgeable about the ins and outs,” said Mr. Boehm, 60, chairman, chief executive, and primary shareholder of the publishing firm ABC-CLIO.

Annual administration fees can range from 0.86 to 1.62 percent of total assets, depending on the size of the fund and whether there’s paid staff, according the 2013 Foundation Operations and Management Report by the Association of Small Foundations.

And, by law, you must give away around 5 percent of average monthly assets each year, or face a 30 percent excise tax on whatever portion of it has not been distributed within a year.

Moreover, there’s the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 to file annually. Net investment income of private foundations is generally taxed at 2 percent, but often is pared to 1 percent through various tax strategies.

These I.R.S. filings are not to be taken lightly. In the past, the tax agency has scrutinized family foundations for a variety of abuses, including family members paying themselves more than $1 million to serve as foundation officers or charging exorbitant management fees. Bottom line: Auditors look for red flags that a family member is using funds as a personal piggy bank.

A lack of privacy can be a problem with a family foundation; all of your information is public information and your 990 tax form can be viewed by anyone — for example, via the Guidestar database.

The upside: “The main advantage to a family foundation is control and flexibility,” said Mr. Berger of Arabella Advisors. “You have control over who is on the board, how the money is granted, how it is managed.” And you have the flexibility to convert the foundation to a public charity in order to attract other funders to a particular cause. If you no longer feel the need to have a foundation, you have the ability to transfer the assets to a donor-advised fund.

If you want to be anonymous, a donor-advised fund is better. A donor-advised fund allows you to create a charitable account, say $5,000 to $25,000, usually through a financial services firm, like a mutual fund or brokerage firm. You allocate grants under an umbrella name, like the Jones Family Fund, but it is not considered public information. You can also avoid the costs and headaches of creating a foundation.

The fund companies take care of most of the administration and management. The three titans are Fidelity CharitableVanguard Charitableand, Schwab Charitable.

The drawback to a donor-advised fund is that you typically do not have as much say in specific investments, and the money must be earmarked for a recognized 501 (c) 3 public charity that is United States-based. Also, there are rules about how many generations can participate in grant-making.

Family foundations can walk a tightrope. On one hand, they can be a vehicle to teach children and grandchildren about leaving the world a better place. They can also bring family members together under a mutual mission, purpose and a passion.

And the parenting opportunities and learning that goes along with travel to check out potential grantees around the globe is something without a specific value. “The life lessons we pulled out of it for the kids though trips to rural villages in Africa, for instance, have been truly unexpected,” Ms. Boehm said.

“But when there are several siblings and multigenerations, squabbles can become a thorny issue,” Mr. Berger said. You can’t ignore “the groan zone,” he added. “What are the mechanics in place to deal with a divergence in opinions?”

Cordes family picture by Joshua Bright, NYT.

Vice and Madonna Collaborate on "Art for Freedom"

Perhaps taking a cue from Bono, Madonna has teamed up with Vice to address human rights violations through art. And not just through her art, you could be the artist that ignites change. After uploading artwork to the Art for Freedom website (or hash tagging your art #ARTFORFREEDOM via other social media outlets), an artist is selected every month by Madonna, Vice and a guest curator. Madonna will then give $10K to the charity of the selected artist's choice in an effort to encourage creative expression that brings awareness to human rights. Sounds like a win-win.

Fighting The Cruelty Of Human Trafficking, Social Entrepreneurs Craft New Models For Helping Victims

This article is reposted in its entirety from Forbes and was written by Tom Watson. President Obama has named January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month – public campaigns aimed at shining a light into the darkest corners of human cruelty: modern-day slavery and the trafficking of human beings in the United States and around the world.

One effort to combat trafficking and help its victims centers on the creativity and energy of social entrepreneursPartnership for Freedom is a coalition of funders in partnership with the Federal government to identify and fund new models for “innovative and sustainable social services for human trafficking survivors,” created by Humanity United, which is partof The Omidyar Group, and launched in partnership with the Obama Administration at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2012. The coalition includes the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative,Steven Spielberg’s Righteous Persons Foundation, and other private donors, led by Pierre and Pam Omidyar.

That’s a lot boldface names, but one aspect of the partnership is well worth noting: a public funding challenge that asks social entrepreneurs to propose new solutions for helping victims of human trafficking in the U.S. That challenge has a prize of up to $1.8M over two years to fund the big ideas and measure their impact. Last month, a pool of 162 ideas from more than 260 organizations in 39 states was culled to a dozen finalists – later this spring, as many as three projects will be chosen for funding.

But while the funding is clearly top down, the ideas are much more bottom up.

And that explicit connection to social services practitioners, regional nonprofits, and a range of social entrepreneurs firmly links the hands-on knowledge and experience in this very difficult societal issue with the kind of support that can get a project off the ground, measure its impact and success – and potentially position the idea for greater scale and sustainability.

“The anti-trafficking space has been around for 15 years, we have laws and strong policies in the books, a great system of justice and engaged law enforcement and social services,” explained Catherine Chen, director of investments at Humanity United. “But there  has been little to no work on innovation around solutions in getting survivors out of the situation and helping them to rebuild their lives. We found this area particularly exciting, and the goal is try and spur groups on the ground, to think big – frankly, bigger than the current funding mechanisms at their disposal.”

The finalists for the initial challenge are intentionally diverse; they include ideas like:

  • SafeNight, a mobile and crowdfunding technology to increase emergency short-term shelter for human trafficking survivors, proposed by Caravan Studios, a division of TechSoup.
  • The Networked Survivor, a plan for creating powerful career paths and networks for survivors of human trafficking, proposed by the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.
  • Homes for a New Horizon, an initiative designed to economically and socially empower Hawaii’s forced labor trafficked survivors and their families though an agricultural center, created by Pacific Gateway Center.
  • Thrive Partnership, a new community-based model for assisting survivors of domestic sex trafficking in the greater Baltimore area toward long-range goals of increased independence and self-sufficiency proposed by  the Araminta Freedom Initiative

One aspect that drove the decision to create a challenge – even in an age of manifold philanthropic contests that often leave nonprofits weary and defeated – was the idea of pushing for innovation, while also creating an entirely new funding channel. “For most providers, the primary funding mechanism has been the Federal funding model,” said Chen. The application barrier was purposely kept low, she explained; proposals were limited to no more than six pages with no fancy graphics or charts. “We wanted to keep the bar low intentionally at the beginning,” said Chen. Applicants were asked to answer one major questions – how could they increase services and improve the lives of trafficking victims in one of three particular areas: better housing, increased empowerment, or improved social services.

Last week, the finalists gathered in Washington DC for a day of collaboration aimed at tightening the proposed models, thinking through the models, and taking advantage of outside experts provided by the funding coalition to provide different viewpoints and additional knowledge. The pairing of these experts had a dual purpose: to help the teams with their ideas, but also to expose the experts to an issue area they may not be familiar with. For example, a landscape architect will advise the agricultural project in Hawaii, an expert from LinkedIn will counsel on the creation of a  professional network, experts in housing, homeless welfare,  refugees, and foster care will work on other projects. There was also coaches in communications, public relations and story-telling. Human trafficking, admits Chen, is often a hard story to tell – and a tough cause to sell.

Yet, Partnership for Freedom sees a maturing in the services area and a desire of those working so hard to end trafficking to improve systems, use better data, leverage technology, and take a chance on new models. The coalition’s fund in designed to be risk capital for those ventures. “This really needs a grassroots movement behind it,” said Chen. “We need to engage and activate professionals who wouldn’t have any interaction with this issue.

Fireside Chat with Intel CEO, the Enough Project and activist Robin Wright

This article is reposted in its entirety from the Enough Project. On Tuesday, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced that its entire 2014 line of microprocessors would be conflict-free making them the first in the rare mineral-heavy industry to completely phase out conflict minerals in one of their products.

This announcement was followed by on Wednesday by a conversation and moderated Q&A with Intel and social activists, including the Enough Project, on the challenge for the electronics industry, as a main users of metals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in making conflict-free products.


Watch the full fireside chat here:

Tel-Aviv Unveils Memorial in Honor of Gay Holocaust Victims

This article has been reposted in its entirety from the Huffington Post. TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israel's cultural and financial capital unveiled a memorial Friday honoring gays and lesbians persecuted by the Nazis, the first specific recognition in Israel for non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Monument To Honor LGBT Holocaust Victims Inaugurated In Tel Aviv
Monument To Honor LGBT Holocaust Victims Inaugurated In Tel Aviv

Tucked away in a Tel Aviv park, a concrete, triangle-shaped plaque details the plight of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people under Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. It resembles the pink triangles Nazis forced gays to wear in concentration camps during World War II and states in English, Hebrew and German: "In memory of those persecuted by the Nazi regime for their sexual orientation and gender identity."

The landmark joins similar memorials in Amsterdam, Berlin, San Francisco and Sydney dedicated to gay victims of the Holocaust. While Israel has scores of monuments for the genocide, the Tel Aviv memorial is the first that deals universally with Jewish and non-Jewish victims alike and highlights the Jewish state's rise as one of the world's most progressive countries for gay rights.

"I think in Israel today it is very important to show that a human being is a human being is a human being," Mayor Ron Huldai said at the dedication ceremony, where a rainbow flag waved alongside Israel's blue-and-white flag. "It shows that we are not only caring for ourselves but for everybody who suffered. These are our values — to see everyone as a human being."

Israel was born out of the Holocaust and its 6 million Jewish victims remains seared in the country's psyche. Israel holds an annual memorial day where sirens stop traffic across the nation, it sends soldiers and youth on trips to concentration camp sites and often cites the Holocaust as justification for an independent Jewish state so Jews will "never again" be defenseless.

But after 70 years, Tel Aviv councilman Eran Lev thought it was time to add a universal element to the commemoration. Lev is one of many gays elected to public office in Tel Aviv, a city with a vibrant gay scene that has emerged as a top international destination for gay tourism.

"The significance here is that we are recognizing that there were other victims of the Holocaust, not just Jews," said Lev, who initiated the project during his brief term in office.

As part of their persecution of gays, the Nazis kept files on 100,000 people, mostly men. About 15,000 were sent to camps and at least half were killed. Other Nazi targets included communists, Slavs, gypsies and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Unlike their persecution of Jews, however, there was no grand Nazi plan to exterminate gays. Nazis viewed being gay as a "public health problem" since those German men did not produce children, said Deborah Dwork, director of the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

"The idea was to change their behavior, not to eradicate them, not to murder them," Dwork said. The policy was far from sweeping — as evidenced by the rampant homosexuality among the ranks of the Nazi Party's SA paramilitary wing, which helped pave Hitler's path to power. The most famous gay Nazi was Ernst Röhm, one of the most powerful men in the party before Hitler had him executed in 1934.

Later, the Nazis outlawed homosexuality and the Gestapo set up a special unit targeting homosexuality. In the Buchenwald concentration camp, the Nazis carried out experiments to try and "cure" homosexuality. Those sent to the camps were forced to wear pink triangles, compared to the yellow stars that Jews bore on their clothing. Gay Jews wore an emblem that combined the two colors.

Today, Israel is one of the world's most progressive countries in terms of gay rights. Gays serve openly in Israel's military and parliament. The Supreme Court grants a variety of family rights such as inheritance and survivors' benefits. Gays, lesbians and a transsexual are among the country's most popular musicians and actors.

Moshe Zimmermann, a professor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the memorial project's historical adviser, said the Tel Aviv monument marked a big step in Israel by ridding itself from what he called a monopoly of victimhood.

"We are finally shedding the load of being the lone and ultimate victim," he said. "We can learn from this that by recognizing the victimhood of others, it does not diminish the uniqueness of your own victimhood."

Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images | Uriel Sinai via Getty Images

Glancing Back at 2013


This year was rife with important milestones, achievements and events related to the human rights movement. We’ve compiled the milestones that most resonated with us. Let us know what resonates with you in the comments section below. 1) Defeated Militia: Colonel Sultani Makenga, Commander of the M23 rebel group in the eastern DRC, surrendered in Uganda along with 1,700 of his rebel fighters this past November. The M23 were ambushed by the Congolese army (also backed by 3,000 UN fighters) and were forced to either be captured or flee. It was under these pressures that they declared a ceasefire, ending a very bloody 20-month uprising.

2) In RemembranceNelson Mandela, former South African President and beloved anti-apartheid leader, died on December 5th 2013. Widely called “Madiba,” Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for his political activities during apartheid in South Africa.  Despite his imprisonment he preached the importance of reconciliation and represented survival in the struggle for human dignity. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and leaves behind a legacy of equality, justice and freedom.

Seamus Heaney, an Irish poet and playwright who won the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature in 1995, died on August 30th, 2013. One of his most famous poems spoke of suffering and conflict in Northern Ireland. Below is an excerpt; for the full poem click here.

History says, Don't hope On this side of the grave, But then, once in a lifetime The longed-for tidal wave Of justice can rise up And hope and history rhyme.

3) AppointmentsSamantha Power’s appointment as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations began on August 5th, 2013. Power is widely considered one of the most important thought leaders and is most known for her strong human rights background and specifically for her extensive genocide research. She wrote “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” a study on the response of U.S. foreign policy in regards to various cases of genocide. She also authored “Chasing the Flame: One Man's Fight to Save the World,” a book about the heroic life of Sergio Vieira de Mello.

4) Symbol of Defiance: Surviving a gunshot wound to the head for defending her right to an education, Malala Yousafzai continues to promote girls education and serves as an inspirational role model for millions of girls around the world. Malala publically debuted with a moving speech to the UN to mark her 16th birthday.  Malala tells her story of being shot by the Taliban in Pakistan in newly published book, “I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban.”

5) Most Perplexing Conflict: Syria’s civil war continues to escalate in intensity, complexity and scope. For more than two years, violent conflict has ravaged this country and has maimed or taken the lives of thousands of innocent civilians and produced an epic refugee crisis with estimates of 6.5 million people now forcibly displaced with little access to aid or security. Widely considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises partly due to the internal chemical weapons attacks that have killed more than 10,000 Syrians, international observers remain baffled as to a viable political (non-military) solution that would result in meaningful peace and lasting stability.

6) More than Meets the Eye: When Edward Snowden, former CIA worker, leaked classified details of the NSA surveillance program, he initiated a controversial, if not historic, debate on privacy vs. security in a post 9/11, digital world, questioning how far the government should go to protect the American public. At the core of this debate is whether the metadata surveillance collected in the name of national security is pursued at the expense of civil liberties, such as privacy rights and freedom of expression. Human rights defenders say current surveillance policies must be reformed to respect privacy and maintain freedom of speech. This is a debate worth following as the implications are serious and far-reaching. For more information click here.

7) Notable Movies: 12 Years a Slave, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Anita and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.

8) Favorite Reads: The Lemon Tree, The Glass Palace, Long Walk to Freedom, The Kitchen House, Strength in What Remains.

9) Favorite Tweets

@CivCenter: When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” -Kenyan proverb

@AmbassadorPower: Violence against women isn’t cultural, it’s criminal. Equality can't come eventually; we must fight for it now.

10) Stunning Statistic: The NSA tracks 5 billion cell phone records daily!

Nelson Mandela: His Legacy Lives On


nelson-mandela-released-sized(2)Yesterday the world lost one of its most beloved leaders, Nelson Mandela, former South African President and anti-apartheid leader. The news was met with somber reactions as his life was reflected upon and his death mourned. According to CNN, he will be buried in a state funeral on Sunday, December 15th in Qunu, South Africa. The official memorial service will be at the First National Bank Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday, December 10th, which is also International Human Rights Day, appropriately fitting.

South African President Jacob Zuma addressed his country yesterday with the sad news. He said "our nation has lost its greatest son, our people have lost a father. Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss."

An enduring loss, indeed. U.S. President Barack Obama also made a heartfelt statement yesterday where he reflected on Mandela's legacy and also on his own experience protesting against apartheid. The full video of his statement is below.

To learn more about Nelson Mandela, A3A strongly recommends reading his inspiring, autobiography "A Long Walk to Freedom." Rest in Peace, Mr. Mandela. Your legacy lives on.

Cover Photo by Andy Wong/AP. Post Photo by Getty Images.