ACLU Ambassador Project
Over the years, the ACLU has partnered with many members of the entertainment industry on film screenings, panel discussions, documentary films, delegations, and awareness campaigns. The ACLU Ambassador Project is an exciting next step in the ACLU's longtime collaboration with the entertainment community, in an effort to use celebrity for the greater good.
The ACLU Ambassador Project ties influential creative artists in film, television, music and comedy with public education and advocacy for key ACLU issues. Each Ambassador works with ACLU national staff members on specific civil liberties issues, which include: voting rights, LGBT and AIDS, marriage for same-sex couples, privacy and security, abortion/reproductive rights, overincarceration, racial justice, and veterans.
Ambassadors work with the ACLU in various ways. Whether they use their social media accounts to spread our messaging, participate in breaking news teleconferences or legislative hearings or meet with members of Congress, their involvement in furthering the work of the ACLU is invaluable.
Michael Kenneth Williams
Michael Kenneth Williams is the ACLU celebrity ambassador for ending mass incarceration. Williams is best known for his remarkable work on The Wire, which ran for five seasons on HBO. The wit and humor that Williams brought to Omar, the whistle-happy, profanity-averse, dealer-robbing stickup man, earned him high praise and made Omar one of television's most memorable characters. For his work Williams was nominated in 2009 for an NAACP Image Award for "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series." Williams is also co-starring in HBO's critically acclaimed series Boardwalk Empire, which premiered in 2010. In the Martin Scorsese-produced show, Williams plays Chalky White, a 1920s bootlegger and impeccably suited veritable mayor of the Atlantic City's African-American community. In 2012 Boardwalk Empire won a Screen Actors Guild Award for" Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series." Giving back to the community plays an important role in Williams' off-camera life. He has established Making Kids Win, a charitable organization whose primary objective is to build community centers in urban neighborhoods that are in need of safe spaces for children to learn and play.
Learn more: Smart Justice, Fair Justice
Demian Bichir serves as the ACLU ambassador for immigrants' rights. Bichir is one of the most well-known and well-respected actors in his home of Mexico and the U.S. He received a 2012 Academy Award, SAG Award and Independent Spirit Award nomination for his portrayal of an undocumented gardener trying to connect with his estranged teenage son in Chris Weitz's feature "A Better Life." He is the first Mexican born actor to be nominated for the Best Actor award by the Academy since Anthony Quinn was nominated for the film "Wild Is The Wind" in 1957.
In the United States, Bichir currently stars in the critically acclaimed television series, "The Bridge" for FX opposite Diane Krueger. The show goes into its second season in the summer of 2014. Bichir is beloved for his portrayal of Esteban Reyes opposite Mary-Louise Parker in the hit Showtime series "Weeds."
He just wrapped shooting his directorial debut of the film he wrote entitled "Refugio," a coming of age story of a young dreamer, born in the circus, who embarks on a search to find his long lost true love. The film is currently in post-production.
His outstanding U.S. film credits include: portraying Fidel Castro in Steven Soderbergh's "Che," opposite Benicio Del Toro, starring in Oliver Stone's "Savages," opposite Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek, Ian Power's "The Runway," Paul Fieg's hit summer comedy "The Heat" opposite Sandra Bullock and Melissa Mc Carthy and "Machete Kills" opposite Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Charlie Estevez and others.
In 2014 Bichir co-stars in the upcoming release of "Dom Hemingway," opposite Jude Law and has the lead role in the independent film "Death in Buenos Aires."
In Mexico, Bichir is an Ariel Award winner for Best Actor, given by the Mexican Academy of Cinematography, and has received numerous other nominations and prestigious honors including a Medal of Honor for Merit in the Fine Arts, given by the Legislative Assembly of Mexico City.
Bichir comes from a well-known and highly respected theatrical family. He is the son of famed theater director Alejandro Bichir and acclaimed actress Maricruz Nájera. His brothers Odiseo and Bruno are also two of the most talented actors of their generation. Bichir has amassed an impressive resume of theater credits in Mexico including the starring role in the theater adaptation of the film SWIMMINGWITH SHARKS in Mexico City, directed by his brother Bruno Bichir. Bichir's work in theater includes Shakespeare's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and RICHARD THE III, Strindberg's THE GHOST SONATA, Peter Shaffer's EQUUS, Eugene O'Neill's AH! WILDERNESS, Neil Simon's BROADWAY BOUND and THE ODD COUPLE, David Halliwell's LITTLE MALCOLM and HIS STRUGGLE AGAINST THE EUNUCHS and Sabina Berman's EXTRAS.
Bichir also impressed U.S. audiences in 2008, starring in the play BY THE WATERS OF BABYLON which opened at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles.
Bichir is also starring in Guillermo Arriaga's upcoming collaboration of short films titled "Words With Gods." His most memorable Latin American credits include "Rojo Amanecer" (winner of the Grand Jury Prize in the San Sebastian Film Festival), Alex de la Iglesia's "Perdita Durango" with Javier Bardem, "Hasta Morir" (Best Actor Ariel winner, the Mexican Academy of Cinematography), "Sin Noticias de Dios" with Victoria Abril and Penélope Cruz, the Showtime feature film "In the Time of the Butterflies" in which he starred opposite Salma Hayek, "Sex, Shame and Tears "(Ariel Best Actor nominee), "American Visa" (Best Foreign Film nominee at the Goyas in Spain), "Fuera del Cielo," "Enemigos Intimos" and "Hidalgo, The Untold Story" (Ariel Award nominee and winner of the Best Actor award at the Huelva Film Festival in Spain).
Demian resides in Los Angeles and Mexico City.
Learn more: Immigrants' Rights
Harry Belafonte serves as the ACLU celebrity ambassador for the overincarceration of juveniles. Belafonte exposed America to world music and spent his life challenging and overturning racial barriers across the globe. Recently, Belafonte founded the Sankofa Justice & Equity Fund, a non-profit social justice organization that utilizes the power of culture and celebrity in partnership with activism. It is a space for artists to contribute their talents to build awareness and confront the issues that negatively impact marginalized communities.
Learn more: Juvenile Justice
W. Kamau Bell
Socio-political comedian and TV host W. Kamau Bell serves as the ACLU celebrity ambassador for racial justice. Bell has emerged as the post-modern voice of comedy. His weekly half-hour comedy series, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, premiered on FX in 2012 and became a critically acclaimed but criminally short nightly show in 2013 on FX's new network FXX. The New York Times called Kamau "the most promising new talent in political comedy in many years." The show was nominated for "Best Talk Series" at the 2012 NAACP Image Awards and Salon.com listed Bell on their "Sexiest Men of 2012" list, calling the series "surreptitiously revolutionary in its effortless diversity and humanism." The San Francisco Chronicle raved, "it makes The Daily Show seem like something your dad watches." Bell has released two stand-up albums, One Night Only (2007) and Face Full of Flour (2010) and currently tours the country his one-man show, The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About An Hour, which has received rave reviews from audiences, critics, and industry insiders. Bell has been featured on several of the biggest comedy podcasts, including WTF with Marc Maron, Comedy & Everything Else, Citizen Radio, Jordan Jesse GO! and The Sound of Young America.
Learn more: Racial Justice
Lewis Black is the ACLU celebrity ambassador for voting rights. Black has been a fixture on The Daily Show segment, "Back in Black," since the show's debut in 1996. He won a Grammy for comedy album, The Carnegie Hall Performance (2006), has starred in numerous HBO Comedy and Comedy Central specials. In addition to his work in comedy, Black has written over 40 plays, and three books. He has made numerous appearances on CNN and MSNBC, and has appeared as a guest on several late-night television shows, including Larry King Live, Piers Morgan Tonight, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O' Brian and the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.
Lewis Black was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Silver Spring, MD. His mother, a teacher, and his father, a mechanical engineer, instilled in both Lewis and his younger brother Ron the importance of education and the necessity to question authority. Black holds degrees from the University of North Carolina and Yale Drama School, where he received an MFA.
Lewis supports a number of charitable causes, including the ACLU. In 2012, he was honored with a National Civil Liberties Award by the ACLU of Georgia.
Learn more: Voting Rights
Melissa Etheridge, the ACLU celebrity ambassdor for marijuana reform, is one of rock music's great female icons. Her critically acclaimed eponymous debut album was certified double-platinum. Etheridge gained popularity around such memorable songs as "Bring Me Some Water," "No Souvenirs" and "Ain't It Heavy," for which she won her first Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal. Etheridge hit her commercial and artistic stride with her fourth album, Yes I Am featuring the massive hits "I'm the Only One" and "Come to My Window," a searing song of longing that brought her a second Grammy. The six-time platinum album spent more than two and a half years on the album chart.
Etheridge is also an Oscar Award-winner for Best Original Song in 2007. In 2011, Melissa made her Broadway debut as St. Jimmy in Green Day's rock opera, American Idiot, where she replaced Billie Joe Armstrong for one week and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her most recent album, 4th Street Feeling, was released in 2012. When Melissa is not on tour, she records her syndicated Melissa Etheridge Radio Show.
Learn more: Marijuana Reform
Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the ACLU celebrity ambassador for the Freedom to Marry campaign, currently stars as "Mitchell Pritchett" on the Emmy Award-winning ABC comedy Modern Family. In its first three seasons, the show has earned three Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series, a Golden Globe Award for Outstanding Comedy Series and three Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. Ferguson has also received three Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
No stranger to television, Ferguson received rave reviews and was honored by The Hollywood Reporter in 2006 as one of "Ten to Watch" for his role on the CBS ensemble sitcom The Class. His additional television credits include Do Not Disturb and Ugly Betty. Film credits include Untraceable and Wonderful World.
Ferguson made his Broadway debut at the age of 21 as "Chip" in George C. Wolfe's revival of On The Town. He later went on to originate the role of "Leaf Coneybear" in the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, The 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee (Outstanding Ensemble Performance winner, Drama Desk Awards, 2005; "Distinguished Performance" nominee, Drama League Awards, 2005). He has worked extensively with The New York Public Theatre's Shakespeare in the Park in such notable productions as The Comedy of Errors, The Merchant of Venice, The Winter's Tale and A Midsummer's Night Dream ("Distinguished Performance" nominee, Drama League Awards, 2008). Other theatre credits include world premieres of Christopher Shinn's Where Do We Live and Michael John LaChiusa's Little Fish, as well as Leo Bloom in The Producers at The Hollywood Bowl. Ferguson currently resides in Los Angeles.
Learn more: Marriage for Same-Sex Couples
Cyndi Lauper is the ACLU celebrity ambassador for LGBT rights and HIV/AIDS. Lauper is a Grammy, Emmy and Tony award-winning artist with record sales in excess of 50 million, she has proven that she has the heart and soul to captivate huge audiences. The past year she released her New York Times best-selling autobiography – Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir –, wrote the original score for the Tony award-winning best musical Kinky Boots, partnered with Mark Burnett on the docu-series Cyndi Lauper: Still So Unusual , and continued her philanthropic work through her foundation the True Colors Fund.
Helping others has always been a guiding force for Lauper. An unwavering advocate for LGBT equality long before she became famous, she co-founded the True Colors Fund in 2008 to further her commitment. The organization works to inspire everyone to get involved in advancing equality for all through its "Give a Damn Campaign" and to bring an end to LBGT youth homelessness through its "Forty to None Project."
Lauper is the Honorary Chairperson and a co- founder of the True Colors Residence, the first project of its kind to provide a permanent, supportive and secure home to formerly homeless LGBT youth in New York City. Lauper also continues to be a tireless participant in the struggle to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic and ensure that women are treated equally around the world.
Learn more: LGBT Rights
Learn more: HIV/AIDS Activism
Marlee Matlin is the ACLU celebrity ambassador for disability rights. Matlin won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in the 1986 film, Children of a Lesser God. Her numerous credits include recurring roles in film and television series, including The West Wing, The L Word, and Switched at Birth, currently airing on ABC Family. She has received numerous awards for her charity work and has authored three novels for children in 2009, published her New York Times best-selling autobiography, I'll Scream Later. Matlin lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband, law enforcement officer, Kevin Grandalski and their four children. The ACLU Ambassador Project is an exciting next step in the ACLU's longtime collaboration with the entertainment community, in an effort to use celebrity for the greater good.
Learn more: Disability Rights