May 2, 2014 – City National Grove of Anaheim
In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, OC Human Relations presented The Legacy Awards: Honoring Orange County’s Civil Rights Heroes, on May 8, 2014 at The City National Grove of Anaheim.
The program honored Orange County’s local civil rights icons as well as new generation of leaders who have been the beneficiaries of the Civil Rights Act and are continuing work in the civil rights arena in Orange County. The awardees are individuals or groups who have made extraordinary contributions to Orange County by advocating for equal civil rights in education, employment, health, housing, immigration, justice, and labor, among others. The gala also featured a speech by 2014 YouthSpeak contest winner, Andres Guerrero, a junior at Anaheim’s Loara High School.
This special awards event continues OC Human Relations’ annual tradition of highlighting Orange County’s outstanding individuals who go above and beyond to make our community a better place for all of us to live, work and do business.
The 2014 Legacy Award Recipients:
In 1963, the California State Legislature passed the Rumford Act, also known as the “fair housing act”, which declared that racial discrimination in housing rental or sales was against the law. In response, the California Association of Realtors sponsored Proposition 14, to overthrow the Rumford Fair Housing Act. Proposition 14 passed in a vote of 3 to 1 in Orange County. This proposition effectively allowed landlords to refuse to rent to African-Americans, Asians, Latinos and any other group of persons they were prejudiced against. Dorothy Mulkey challenged Proposition 14 in 1966 after a Santa Ana landlord refused to rent a vacant apartment to her family. The ACLU and the Orange County Fair Housing Council took her case all the way to the Supreme Court, and in 1967 the court declared Prop 14 unconstitutional. Landlords no longer could refuse to rent to people because of their skin color, religion or ethnicity. The fair housing movement was a very important and prominent aspect of Orange County’s civil rights era. Both the Fullerton and the Orange County Fair Housing Councils were both formed in the mid-60’s in response to this issue.
Robert Johnson has been deeply involved in advocacy for fair housing issues in Orange County. In 1961, Johnson, his wife, Lois, and their three children moved to Orange County to live in the city of Tustin. In 1966, he began almost three decades of work to eliminate segregation of African Americans in the county through the Orange County Fair Housing Council. In 1969, he was elected chair of its Board of Directors and continued on to serve as an officer through 1995. In 1981, he received the “Fair Housing Volunteer of the Year” award from the Community Relations Conference of Southern California. Johnson currently is a Board member of the Orange County Community Housing Corporation, which he co-founded in 1978 to provide housing for extremely low-income people, and is on the Board of the Santa Ana Black Historical Society. He has B.S. and M.S. degrees in engineering from UCLA, and is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
For 50 years, Jean and Frank Forbath have been dedicated to making life more bearable for Orange County’s poor and marginalized. In the 1970s, Frank became aware of the despicable conditions in the farm labor camps of Orange County. As a volunteer serving this invisible community, he initiated investigations and advocacy to shine the light on these migrant worker camps. He brought this issue to the OC Human Relations Commission and ultimately the Orange County Grand Jury. As a result, The Orange County Health Department started a program of outreach, laws were passed, and the conditions in the camps improved.
In 1970, the Forbaths founded Share Our Selves (SOS) to help people with immediate needs such as food, financial aid, free medical and dental care. SOS volunteers were soon aiding 20,000 people a month. While doing this, SOS was a constant advocate testifying before government agencies for affordable housing, access to medical care, and a responsive welfare system. Jean served as the unpaid executive director for 22 years, and she and Frank served for 39 years on the SOS Board of Directors, including terms as co-chairs.
Amin David was one of the founders of OC Human Relations Commission in 1971 and has blessed Orange County since then with his thirst for justice and equality. Amin founded Los Amigos in 1978, and has dedicated his life to protecting the weakest, correcting brutal mistakes, and facing without hesitation the biggest and most insurmountable problems, with the simple adage, “Nos Gusta Ayudar, “We Like To Help”. Whether police brutality, immigration reform, or hunger and a need for a job, Amin’s voice is raised in eloquent phrases as an advocate.
David’s determination to defend the dignity and human rights of his community have made him a champion among champions for Latino causes. “Amin can’t be bought off, scared off or pushed off. He’s an advocate for human rights and human dignity in the Latino community and he believes in it like he believes in his religion–deeply,” said Bill Thom, a founding member of Los Amigos and former Mayor of Anaheim, who, before his death worked hand in hand with Amin.
David has focused on many community issues over the years and has helped people in a variety of circumstances to address issues related to immigration, poverty, housing, employment, community policing and many others. He also is involved in KinderCaminata which provides college tours for kindergarteners, OC Community Housing Corporation creating permanent affordable housing, Anaheim Police Chief’s Advisory Board building understanding between police and community members, as well as other organizations.
Mendez, et al v. Westminster School District of Orange County, et al, was a 1946 federal court case that challenged racial segregation in Orange County, California schools. Five Mexican-American fathers from Orange County (Thomas Estrada, William Guzman, Gonzalo Mendez, Frank Palomino, and Lorenzo Ramirez) challenged the practice of school segregation in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. They claimed that their children, along with 5,000 other children of “Mexican” ancestry, were victims of unconstitutional discrimination by being forced to attend separate “schools for Mexicans” in the Westminster, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, and El Modena school districts of Orange County. The plaintiffs were represented by an established Jewish American civil rights attorney, David Marcus. Funding for the lawsuit was primarily paid for initially by the lead plaintiff, Gonzalo Mendez, who began the lawsuit when his three children were denied entrance to their local Westminster school.
Senior District Judge Paul J. McCormick, sitting in Los Angeles, presided at the trial and ruled in favor of Mendez and his co-plaintiffs on February 18, 1946, finding segregated schools to be an unconstitutional denial of equal protection. The school district appealed to the Ninth Federal District Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which upheld Judge McCormick’s decision, finding that the segregation practices violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Governor Earl Warren, who would later become Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court and preside over Brown vs. Board of Education, signed into law the repeal of remaining segregationist provisions in the California statutes. Several organizations joined the appellate case as amicus curiae, including the NAACP, represented by Thurgood Marshall and Robert L. Carter.
Carrying on the First African Methodist Episcopal (FAME) tradition of social action epitomized by his mentor Rev Cecil Murray, Pastor Mark Whitlock founded Christ Our Redeemer (COR) A.M.E. Church in Irvine in 1998. Pastor Mark built COR into one of the largest predominately African American congregations in Orange County with a reputation of speaking truth to power, and outreach to the multi-ethnic community. Whether caring for the drug addled man evading the police who is shot to death, or the former Olympian who feels she was pulled over and harassed for being Black, handcuffed and held for an hour on the curb before being released with no ticket or charges.
Pastor Mark has partnered with the Probation Department and Sheriff to bring Latino and African American clergy together to try and create a safety net for returning felons. He is an outspoken advocate for young boys and men of color who are being disproportionately expelled from schools in zero tolerance policies that offer no alternative place for them but to fall into worse situations.
When Anitra Chatman and her family were fleeing Orange County due to a spate of hate crimes and incidents targeting them in Yorba Linda, Pastor Whitlock insisted that immediate action must be taken. He said we could not wait till time opened in our busy lives, we had to act now to confront this injustice. This is indicative of the vision of this man. He is truly a man of action who daily stands ready to do the uncomfortable, to confront bigotry, with a vision that is clear and unswerving.
When the civil rights laws of our country fell short of protecting the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender community, Tina Correa did not. She stepped up, as an organizer of movements that change the world, Tina made a difference for the LGBT community in Orange County.
She helped launch and sustain the county’s first high school Gay Straight Alliance Club which grew to campuses across the county. She created a Parent Leadership Institute to empower immigrant parents of English learners. She educated new immigrant communities about their rights with police, schools, cities, Federal immigration, as well as county and state officials. She assumed responsibility for thousands of files of undocumented immigrants defrauded by La Guadalupana notaries and coordinated finding the victims and returning their priceless documents.
Tina Correa is a Latina who grew up in the labor camps of the mighty Irvine Ranch where her father worked in the fields. She attended Kindergarten at a public school in the affluent suburban community of Irvine as one of the only non-English speaking children of color.
She overcame the abject fear she faced as she walked into that first classroom, the persistent discrimination of a school system that expected little of her, and the hurdle of a non-English speaker in an English only world. Tina grew up fast acting as the intermediary for her non-English speaking parents and later for all of the families in the trailer park where the Latino laborers lived. She became the “co-madre” of the voiceless and discriminated around her from those early days through her three decades of service at OC Human Relations Commission.
Founded in 1997, the Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Community Alliance was the shared vision of Mary Ann Foo and a small group of activists who felt the need for a unified pan-Asian American voice. OCAPICA focused on research, advocacy, and education around issues of health within Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. By 1999, OCAPICA expanded to include legislative education and advocacy as well as youth, cultural arts, and curriculum development.
OCAPICA has grown in response to the needs of AAPI and other underserved communities, expanding its programming in: mental health and wellness for youth and families; civic engagement and voter empowerment; youth employment; and academic mentoring and college readiness. OCAPICA also partners with local area universities on research, evaluation, and service learning.
Today, 17 years later, OCAPICA has grown to almost 40 staff with more than 20 different programs and partnerships with 30+ organizations. Mary Anne has been working for over 20 years at national, regional, and local levels with non-profits and public entities on healthcare, policy, and leadership development. She is the tireless leader of this diverse community organization that gives voice to emerging communities.
Annan Aboul-Nasr works for the Islamic Institute of Orange County (IIOC) in Anaheim. She is an advocate for social justice, especially for homelessness and workers’ rights, and is a representative of the Muslim community with interfaith partners such as OC Congregation Community Organization. She is an emerging young leader of Orange County who is courteous and respectful to all who she works with. Annan has been an active member of the Anaheim Poverty Task Force, an interfaith group advocating for needs of homeless population in the city of Anaheim.
As a lead staff in community relations efforts of IIOC, Annan facilitates opportunities for the congregation to be aware of injustice and to take a part in services and advocacy for those in need. She organized a screening of the documentary about motel kids in Orange County in February 2011 and a town hall meeting in response to bigotry against Muslims at an event in Yorba Linda in June 2011.
In the face of unwarranted fear and prejudice against the Muslim community, Annan sees the importance of being a positive representation of Muslim values in various interfaith settings.
She coordinated distribution of 500 school supply kits for those in need in the surrounding predominately low-income Latino community around the mosque. She organizes bi-monthly “Volunteer [email protected]” events, where the congregation prepares brown bag lunches and distributes them to the homeless at La Palma Park in Anaheim and Santa Ana Civic Center.
Annan works over and above the call of duty, serving the needs of the poor, building understanding among diverse communities, and advocating for justice for all.
As a high school student, Jennifer Rojas distinguished herself as someone who cares about others, and can bring together movements for justice. She was active in OC Human Relations BRIDGES program through which she organized initiatives on her campus such as; “Social Justice Week.”
The goal of this initiative was to unite student leadership groups around a common cause. Raising awareness of her peers to the important issues of injustice that exist in the world. Social Justice Week continues even though Jennifer graduated and moved on.
As a youth organizer in high school she partnered with the administration to build a safer, more inclusive campus. She served as an intern at BRIDGES Youth Organizing camp educating high school students on the subjects of social justice, leadership, and organizing skills based upon the Six Steps of Kingian Nonviolent Organizing. She facilitated hour–long workshops on the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, workshops on stereotype awareness and social justice and served as co-emcee for Walk In My Shoes Youth Conference bringing together over 500 diverse youth to inspire their civic engagement.
Now in college, she continues to advocate for people in need of fairness such as; undocumented students, English-Learner parents, campus service workers, child care providers, LGBTQ students and many more. During her summer break she served as an intern for the Women’s Assistance and Business Association in Accra, Ghana.
Jennifer uses her knowledge and skills of working for social justice by empowering her peers in high school and college to understand the issues and take appropriate action to change the world for the better. She cares deeply about working for a more just and equitable society and she is not afraid to take an unpopular stand if she feels it is the right thing to do.
Rabbi Stephen J. Einstein founded Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Fountain Valley in 1976, and retired June 30, 2012. He has been a voice for intergroup understanding, and against hate and bigotry throughout his life, as demonstrated by his service on the boards of the American Jewish Committee, one of the oldest human relations organizations in the country, and the Anti-Defamation League, which has been an international protector of those targeted by hate crime.
Since 1976, Rabbi Einstein has taught the community-wide Introduction to Judaism course, and is co-author of Every Person’s Guide to Judaism. A pioneer in outreach, he is now the co-chair of Reform Judaism’s Commission on Outreach, Membership and Sacred Community. Rabbi Einstein teaches at California State University, Fullerton, in the Department of Comparative Religion. Rabbi Einstein was honored by the Orange County Bureau of Jewish Education for Major Contributions to Jewish Learning and as Mensch of the Year. He is the recipient of the American Jewish Committee’s Micah Award for Interfaith Relations.
Passionately committed to education as the key to progress, Rabbi Einstein was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Fountain Valley School District from 1984 – 1990. As part of the rabbi’s concern for his community, he is a Chaplain for the Fountain Valley Police Department. He is the past President of the Greater Huntington Beach Interfaith Council and Past Chairman of the Board of Retinoblastoma International. He is on the Board of Clue (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice) and a member of Clergy for Choice. He also serves on the Interfaith Outreach Committee of the Alzheimer’s Association of Orange County, and is a member of the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue.
Rabbi Einstein was an Executive Advisory Board Member of the Institute for Character Education (Orange County Department of Education) and serves on the PBS/SoCal Community Advisory Board.
A Big Thank You to Our Sponsors!
Related, Edison International
Susan & John Reese; Southern California Gas Company
Chevron; Disneyland Resort; Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian; Anita Varela & Rusty Kennedy; Keith Swayne; UC Irvine
Ralph Bauer; California Sikh Council; California State University, Fullerton; Christ Our Redeemer AME Church; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; Crevier Family Fund; Buddhist Followers in Orange County; North OC Community College District; OC Department of Education; Schools First Federal Credit Union; UPS; Zonta Club of Newport Harbor
100 Black Men Arab American; Anti-Discrimination Committee; Buendia Productions; The California Endowment; Kay Carpenter; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; City National Grove of Anaheim; Congregation S|hir Ha-Ma’a lot; The Islamic Institute of Orange County; Islamic Society of Orange County; Ron Kobayashi Trio; OC Community Foundation; Edward James Olmos; Sean Thomas & Dan Long; Carol Turpen; ViridiSTOR; YMCA of Anaheim