Tuesday, April 21, 2009

2009 Goldman Award Ceremony, San Francisco

photos: Jayms Ramirez


The Goldman awards last night at the SF Opera house proved to be a beautiful event. The stories told by the 7 recipients were both inspiring and heartfelt, as they revealed the details of how their stories. Each of the recipients have championed a cause in their homeland to save or protect a part of their country and bring to light the need for more sustainable policies around the world. Because of their outspoken actions, many have been threatened, harassed and even jailed for simply asking "why" in the face of greed and misuse of Earth Mother.

Richard Goldman, the founder of the prize, has been spotlighting the unsung heroes of the environment for 20 years now. Goldman brought these 7 award winners from around the globe to accept their award in front of a packed house in the glorious Opera House of San Francisco. Mr Goldman gave a short intro speech to kick off the ceremonies, which lasted a couple of hours.

I was fortunate enough to be part of the press corp to cover the event which began at 3:30 pm with a "green carpet" arrival of the Goldman family, Al Gore, Robert Redford, Tracey Chapman, Christine Amanpour among others. A pack of photographers and film crews shot the arrivals against a staged background with all the shouting as it were Oscar night.... "Mr Redford!!, Tracey!!!, Mr. Gore...... and so on to get that one bit of eye contact for the respective lensmen.
It was cool! and the guests were gracious, in their pose striking.

Once inside the opera house, the Mistress of Ceremonies, Christiane Amanpour from CNN started the festivities with a passionate description of the trials and tribulations facing those who speak up to confront government, corporations and wrong doing in order to do what is right. The crowd cheered and crave more from the seasoned news reporter.....

Next up was Al Gore, and the rood began to quiver from the noise that erupted in applause for the Ex- Vice President. His speech was short and concise peppered with a good bit of humor that went over well with this liberal crowd. He wrapped up his words with the idea that the time is now my friends.... The time is now.

Gore strolled off the stage and the lights went dim for a minute, as another figure came out in a quiet manner and humble swagger. Robert Redford was the narrator of the 6 video clips explaining each recipients' cause, which would play throughout out the evening. (at the end of this post is the video clip of Redford's intro)

The first clip was about Marie Gunnoe from West Virginia, who then was handed her award from Christiane Amanpour. Marie kissed Mr Goldman and thanked him for the spotlight he had granted..... This continued with the other 6 recipients, only broken up by a short musical segment performed by Tracey Chapman! She performed two songs for an adoring audience and revealed that she looked and looked for an uplifting song about environmentalism, but the search was so difficult, which brought a wall of laughter from all the treehuggers.... She covered a Counting Crows song about 'Paving paradise to put up a parking lot......."

The other recipients accepted their awards:

Wanze Eduards and S. Hugo Jabini - Suriname, Syeda Rizwana Hasan - Bangladesh, Olga Speranskaya - Russia, Yuyun Ismawati - Indonesia, Marc Ona Essangui - Gabon

The last award given was to Mr Marc Ona Essangui, from Gabon and his was the most emotional for the crowd as his story was truly inspiring.
He is wheelchair bound and has been fighting for the natural areas and Kongou Falls in his country for many years so the next generations may enjoy them as well.
He has been jailed and still faces charges in his country for 'questioning the power of the President'. The US ambassador worked hard and true to make it possible for Mr. Essangui to be here tonight.

He sat on stage at a customized podium in his wheelchair and closed the evening with a anecdote from his youth. "... When I was a boy my father would put me on his back to walk me to school and others would shout out 'don't waste your time with that one, he is a cripple...'
My father would reply that we would leave no baby chick behind if it was still alive.
...I would carry this notion for the rest of my life, and I will never leave behind the precious Kongou Falls and protected areas in my country, as they are still alive....."

The crowd erupted again into a standing ovation and you could see the calm appreciation in Mr. Essangui's eyes.

All 7 recipients came back on stage and gave a hands-in-the-air victory salutation.....

A beautiful night.

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