Pepsi Honors Mother and Son as Everyday Freedom Heroes

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Celebrities Isaac Hayes, and Angelina Jolie voice their support in a TV special "Pepsi Everyday Freedom Heroes," produced and directed by Jim Friedman of Blind Squirrels Production Group which will air on WCPO-TV (Channel 9 in Cincinnati, OH) and in other cities before spring. Youth for Human Rights International Founder and Director, Mary Shuttleworth and her young son, Taron Lexton of TXL Films were among those awarded. The event was hosted in the Harriet Tubman Auditorium of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH.

Celebrities Isaac Hayes, and Angelina Jolie voice their support in a TV special "Pepsi Everyday Freedom Heroes," which will air on WCPO-TV (Channel 9 in Cincinnati, OH) and in other cities before spring. A Pepsi Everyday Freedom Hero is an individual or group of people who exemplify courage, cooperation and perseverance.

The seven extraordinary people awarded included the founder of Youth for Human Rights International, Mary Shuttleworth and her young son, Taron Lexton. Born in apartheid South Africa, Shuttleworth became aware of human rights injustices at an early age. After relocating to Los Angeles, her own learning disability was the inspiration for starting her first non-profit corporation in 1998, Shuttleworth Leadership Society International (SLSI), with the mission: Inspiration through Education!

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, hosted the Inaugural Pepsi Everyday Freedom Heroes in the Grand Hall of the $110-million museum celebrating the story of freedom woven through the heroic legacy of the Underground Railroad and the American struggle to abolish human enslavement and secure freedom for all people. First Lady Barbara Bush, Oprah Winfrey and Angela Bassett participated in 2004 for the public dedication of the Freedom Center. Pepsi is the official sponsor of the Pepsi Everyday Freedom Heroes Awards. The inaugural event and premier was held on Saturday, January 14th, 2006.

The ED and CEO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Dr. Spencer Crew, devoted 20 years to the Smithsonian Institute and was professor of African American and American History at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

The human rights issues facing children around the world, including the staggering 800,000 people who are victims of human trafficking every year across international borders by the underground black market and the 27 million people who are enslaved in the world today, Shuttleworth realized more human rights education was needed as a preventative measure. “What we need is a Human Rights Renaissance” said Shuttleworth. So, in 2001 she started her second major project, Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI), an educational group with a very specific purpose: to teach youth about human rights, specifically the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and help them become valuable advocates for tolerance and peace.

When 19-year old Taron Lexton graduated from the Los Angeles Film School in 2003, he wanted to do something for his mother. Her passion for children and human rights and Taron’s belief in the power of music and film lead them on a 45,000 mile crusade circling the globe to 13 countries. The resulting international award winning TXL Films production, the UNITED music video, recently won the Gandhi International Film festival in Spain and is now an Academy Award qualifier. UNITED includes cameo performances by Isaac Hayes, Jenna Elfman, Erika Christensen, Catherine Bell, and Lynsey Bartilson. The overwhelming success of the UNITED music video inspired the YHRI UNITED Film Festival in October 2005 including entries made by students from around the world. Lexton is presently working on a project sponsored by the Human Rights Department of the Church of Scientology International, to make 30 short Public Service Announcements (PSA’s) each depicting one of the thirty articles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Three of the videos have already aired around the world to over 100 million viewers.

Other awardees were: the Executive Director of Witness, Gillian Caldwell for her hidden camera exposes leading to rewriting human trafficking laws; Ernest Mitchell for using his Holocaust ordeal to teach students; founder of Memphis Panel of American Women, Modeane Thompson, for teaching students cultural diversity, understanding and cooperation; Jean-Robert Cadet, a child slave from Haiti, for dedicating his life to the eradication of Restavecs in Haiti including testifying at the United Nations to bring about change; and Caridad Asencio, founder of Caridad Center providing medical and dental care for migrant farm workers, laborers and the working poor in Palm Beach County.

Dr. Jim Friedman, winner of 54 Emmy Awards, and The Blind Squirrel Production Group were acknowledged for their outstanding one hour Pepsi Everyday Freedom Heroes Television Special including documentary footage of the work of all seven Pepsi Freedom Heroes. The Pepsi Everyday Freedom Heroes was unveiled as a permanent exhibit of the Freedom Center Museum.

Youth for Human Rights International is a nonprofit corporation whose purpose is to educate youth in human rights so they become valuable advocates for tolerance and peace. Shuttleworth Leadership Society International is a nonprofit corporation whose purpose is inspiration through education.

Contact Information:

Leslie Brown

TXL Films

(323) 663-3983

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