October 29, 2013

Actors, musicians, comedians commit to work with the ACLU on racial justice, freedom to marry, LGBT & HIV/AIDs, voting rights, and marijuana law reform 

October 29, 2013

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

NEW YORK –The American Civil Liberties Union today launched the ACLU Ambassador Project, a new initiative that joins personalities from the worlds of film, television, music and comedy with ACLU priority issues. The Project’s aim is to elevate the profile of ACLU issues and cases by developing meaningful relationships with these creative artists on specific issues so they can use their voice and platforms to educate the public and advocate for change.

The six new Ambassadors are: Harry Belafonte on mass incarceration, W. Kamau Bell on racial justice, Lewis Black on voting rights, Melissa Etheridge on marijuana law reform, Jesse Tyler Ferguson on LGBT issues, including the freedom to marry and Cyndi Lauper on LGBT issues and HIV/AIDS. 

“These talented artists will bring civil liberties issues to audiences that we haven’t reached before,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “The voices of these new Ambassadors — whether online, on TV, in film or in concerts or comedy clubs across the country—will create a powerful echo chamber that will amplify the ACLU’s work of protecting freedoms for all.”

Ambassadors will promote their issues in various ways, from participating in press conferences to using social media to spread timely messaging.  They will be updated regularly on their issues and will have the opportunity to meet with members of Congress and participate in legislative hearings and insider ACLU case briefings.

The new Ambassadors are already out there making a difference. Jesse Tyler Ferguson, one of the stars on ABC’s hit show Modern Family, and his husband Justin Mikita, traveled to Ferguson’s home state of New Mexico in September to rally people around the fight for the freedom to marry. Since then, the couple’s non-profit Tie the Knot has made a grant of $10,000 to the ACLU of New Mexico to support its work on marriage for same-sex couples.

 And, later this month, Harry Belafonte, a lifelong activist on civil rights and humanitarian causes, will shoot an ACLU public service announcement highlighting the need for a criminal justice system that is both fair and smart. Belafonte has a particular interest in working on alternatives to incarceration for juvenile offenders.  

 Below are short bios for ACLU Ambassadors:

Harry Belafonte – Harry 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.

W. Kamau Bell – Socio-political stand-up comedian and host of the FXX series, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, Bell is known for his hilarious yet astute take on politics, race, and culture. Bell will focus on racial justice issues, including the school-to-prison-pipeline.

Lewis Black – Grammy Award-winning comedian Lewis Black, a long-time ACLU supporter, will further the ACLU’s work on voting rights. Black maintains an active stand-up schedule and regularly appears on The Daily Show in his segment, Back in Black.

Melissa Etheridge – Academy and Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Melissa Etheridge, a breast cancer survivor and longtime advocate of expanded access to medical marijuana, will be the ACLU’s ambassador for marijuana law reform. In June 2013, Etheridge authored an op-ed for CNN.com on the ACLU’s report The War on Marijuana in Black and White, in which she echoed the ACLU’s call for an end to marijuana arrests.

Jesse Tyler Ferguson – Emmy Award-nominated Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays Mitch on ABC’s Modern Family and also appeared in Dustin Lance Black’s play, 8, which dealt with overturning Prop 8 (California’s ban on same-sex marriage), works on the ACLU’s Out for Freedom campaign. Ferguson’s non-profit organization, Tie the Knot, advocates for the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans through the creation and sale of fashion bowties.

Cyndi Lauper – Grammy and Tony Award-winning musician Cyndi Lauper, an LGBT rights supporter for more than two decades and co-founder of the True Colors Fund, will be the ACLU’s Ambassador on LGBT issues and HIV/AIDS, with particular focus on issues that impact LGBT youth.  Lauper’s True Colors Fund was created to inspire people of all sexual orientations to become active participants in the advancement of equality for all. She hopes to continue advancing that mission through her work with the ACLU.

To find out more about the ACLU Ambassador Project, go to:
www.aclu.org/Ambassadors

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