What are you willing to die for? It’s a bold question, but an important one nonetheless. In Andrew Goodman’s case, fighting so that every U.S. citizen could have the right to vote cost him his life.
Goodman was an activist who joined Freedom Summer, a campaign that attempted to register as many Black voters as possible in Mississippi during the summer of 1964 – the height of the Civil Rights Movement. On Goodman’s first day in Mississippi, he along with two other civil rights workers, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. Goodman was only 20 years old.
Two years later, Goodman’s parents, who were also activists, established the Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF) in honor and memory of their son. The foundation works to empower people everywhere to take social action on the issues that matter to them, whether it’s healthcare, immigration, LGBT rights, or the gender pay gap.
In honor of Freedom Summer’s 50th anniversary, AGF will host its annual Hidden Heroes Awards on November 17th at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. T
What makes this ceremony unique, according to AGF’s Project Coordinator Nadia Hussain, is the organization’s ability to activate history and help bridge the gap between the older and newer generations.
“Yes, we’ll be giving out awards, but it’s much more than that,” Hussain says. “The issues we faced back in 1964 are still very relevant today. We might not see people being water hosed in the streets, but we do have police brutality, voter ID laws – there’s a lot of civil rights issues that still exist today.”
Hosted by John Quiñones, ABC News correspondent and host of the hit TV series, What Would You Do?, the event will honor Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years a Slave with this year's Media Hero Award. Other honorees include non-profit leaders and social heroes: Steven Brown, Dave Dennis, Myrile Evers, Tony Hillery, Bob Moses, Andrew Young, and Jeff Steinburg.This year’s special guests include Congressman John Lewis and legendary singer/actor/activist Harry Belafonte; EBONY.com’s very own Jamilah Lemieux will serve as one of the evening's presenters.
In addition to the Hidden Heroes Awards, AGF is known for its two core programs: Vote Everywhere and Hidden Heroes. Launched in 2009, the Hidden Heroes program supports non-profit leaders and organizations through grants and fellowships, while the Vote Everywhere initiative works to educate college students on civil and voting rights, voter registration, and campaigning for social issues just to name a few.
There is also the AGF Journalism Scholarship for Civil Rights, in which the organization teams up with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism every year to provide a deserving student with some much-needed financial assistance. Racial and ethnic, gender and sexual, and religious minorities are given first preference.
“As much as we’d like to think that the news is unbiased, we all know that the news is ruled by the times. What we want to see in journalism is more diversity – we think diversity is paramount to covering many different issues in more fair and unbiased ways,” Hussain says. “The journalism scholarship was established to be able to give people who are not represented in journalism a better chance to [get] their voices heard.”
When most people think of heroism, the first thing that usually comes to mind is some mythical creature who wears a cape and tights, but for the past 48 years, AGF has and will continue to redefine what it actually means to be a hero.
“We’re talking about ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” Hussain says. “Andrew [Goodman] was an ordinary person who did an extraordinary thing. If every person thought they didn’t matter, we would never have names like Martin Luther King or Gandhi. Those were all ordinary people who did extraordinary things. And that’s all a hero is – a person who tries to better the world around them.”
To learn more about the Andrew Goodman Foundation, visit www.andrewgoodman.org.
Princess Gabbara is a 20-something Michigan-based journalist/freelance writer. As a graduate of Eastern Michigan University, she’s contributed to a host of publications, including Ebony.com, Essence.com, xoJane.com, ClutchMagOnline.com, ForHarriet.com, BlackDoctor.org, and Sesi Magazine. You can read more of her work on her blog. She also tweets @PrincessGabbara.