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2018 Spirit Alive Honorees

Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte was born in Harlem in New York City in 1927. Overwhelmed and intimidated by its ghetto streets and thinking the islands to be a safer place, his immigrant mother sent him back to the island of her birth, Jamaica. The island and all its variety became his cultural reservoir.

At the outbreak of World War II, his mother retrieved him from the island and brought him back to Harlem. He tried to adapt to his new environment, a process that came with great difficulty. Unable to finish high school, he enlisted in the United States Navy and served for almost two years as a munitions loader. After his tour of duty ended, he was honorably discharged and returned to New York City where he worked both in the garment center and as a janitor’s assistant.

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Gina Belafonte

Born and raised in New York City, Gina Belafonte has spent her life in the arenas of entertainment and activism where her professional work thrives today. As the youngest child of Julie and Harry Belafonte, whose impact in these fields is among the most influential and progressive in the world, Gina’s passions come as no surprise. Gina was the lead producer on the internationally acclaimed documentary film, SING YOUR SONG, exploring the extraordinary life and legacy of Harry Belafonte that was selected as the opening film for the Sundance Film Festival in 2011.

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Dr. Gail Christopher

Dr. Gail C. Christopher is an award winning social change agent and former Senior Advisor and Vice President of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), one of the world’s largest philanthropies.

She is the visionary for and architect of the WKKF led Truth Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) effort for America. TRHT is an adaptation of the globally recognized Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) model. TRHT evolved from the decade long WKKF America Healing, racial equity and racial healing initiative, designed and led by Dr. Christopher. Over the last ten years she has had responsibility for several other areas of foundation programming. These include, Food, Health and Well-Being, Leadership, Public Policy, Community Engagement and place-based funding in New Orleans and New Mexico.

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Cristina Jiménez

Cristina Jiménez is Executive Director and Co-founder of United We Dream (UWD), the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the country.

Growing up, Cristina always knew she was undocumented. Originally from Quito, Ecuador, Cristina came to the United States at age 13. Her parents risked everything and fled poverty to give her family a better life here. She grew up in Queens, New York, a place she still proudly calls home.

Cristina was instrumental in organizing the successful national campaign that led to the creation and implementation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival Program (DACA) under President Obama. DACA is the most far-reaching and significant victory for immigrant communities in more than thirty years, and has enabled nearly a million immigrants to live without constant fear of deportation, go to school, pursue careers, and build stable lives here

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#NeverAgain Youth Leaders

The shooting massacre of 17 people this month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., not only reignited the debate over gun control but also launched a group of teenage activists.

Students from the school have given dozens of interviews, gained hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter and visited the White House and the Florida state Capitol. They’ve challenged senators and congressional representatives on live television and gone viral in videos of their pleas to prevent another slaughter.

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