Third Annual Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards Showcases International Humanitarians and Ali's Impact on Global Human Rights

Harry Belafonte, Geena Davis among honorees

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Sept. 19, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Third Annual Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards: An Evening to Celebrate Greatness was held this evening at the Louisville Marriott Downtown, presented by the Yum! Brands Foundation. The fundraising gala honored people from around the world who are making significant contributions toward securing peace, social justice, human rights, and/or social capital.

Gold Medalist and 1996 Olympic Torchbearer Janet Evans acted as emcee and host for the evening in the elegant and dazzling Marriott Ballroom. Evans reunited with Muhammad Ali tonight, nearly 20 years after she proudly passed the torch to him at the Opening Ceremonies of the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. The Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards program symbolizes "passing the torch" to the next generation that will continue to uphold Ali's six core principles.

The four top Humanitarian Awardees included:

  • Harry Belafonte, legendary and multi-talented artist and social justice activist, who received the prestigious Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Lifetime Achievement;
  • Geena Davis, Academy Award-winner, humanitarian, and women's advocate, who was honored as the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year;
  • Dr. Andrew Moore from Lexington, Kentucky, founder of Surgery on Sunday, who was named the 2015 Kentucky Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year; and
  • Rose Mapendo of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who was honored with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Gender Equality.

More information about each of these individuals appears below.

For health reasons, Mr. Belafonte was unable to attend the event.

In addition to awards given to seasoned humanitarians, six young adults, age 30 and under, were honored with an award for each of Muhammad's Six Core Principles: Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Giving, Respect, and Spirituality.

The Six Core Principle Awardees are:

  • Kyla LaPointe, age 24 of Bathurst, New Brunswick was honored for her Confidence as a leading advocate for promoting policy, programming, resources, and other support that will benefit youth who are part of the child welfare system. She played a key role in founding the New Brunswick Youth in Care Network.
  • Hadiqa Bashir, a 13-year-old from the Khyber Province of Pakistan, was honored for her Conviction as the pioneer of Girls United for Human Rights. The Girls United for Human Rights mission is to empower the disenfranchised girls in rural regions of Pakistan, eliminate socioeconomic inequality, facilitate self-reliance, enable local self-governance, and promote people's advocacy.
  • Christopher Ategeka, 31, received the honor for Dedication. Born and raised in rural Uganda, orphaned at 7, educated at the University of California and Ategeka used his hard-won experience to start Rides for Lives, an organization that manufactures locally sourced ambulances to improve medical access and economic opportunities to those most vulnerable.
  • Veronika Scott, 26, received the Giving award as the founder of The Empowerment Plan, an organization that began around a single idea: to design a coat specifically for the homeless. The organization has now transformed into a system of empowerment in which homeless women are paid to learn how to produce coats for people living on the streets, giving them an opportunity to earn money, find a place to live, and gain back their independence.
  • Sasha Fisher, 26, was honored for the Respect core principle. Fisher is the co-founder and executive director of Spark MicroGrants, which enables remote villages in east Africa to design and launch their own social impact projects through a six-month facilitated collective action process.
  • Tanyella Evans, 28, was honored for her extraordinary sense of Spirituality. Driven by the philosophy that education is a basic human right, essential to prosperity and peace, Evans co-founded Library For All, an organization that offers a digital library platform to make quality educational resources available to individuals across the developing world.

*Ategeka was 30 years old upon being nominated for the award.

For more information about the Six Core Principle Awardees, go to:

This year's presenters included:

  • Lonnie Ali, Vice Chair of the Muhammad Ali Center, along with her husband
  • Donald Lassere, President and CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center
  • Greg Fischer, Mayor of Metro Louisville, initiator of the city's annual "Give A Day" week, and Compassionate City advocate
  • Max Joseph, filmmaker, co-host of MTV's popular "Catfish" series, and director of We Are Your Friends, opening in theaters today
  • Jennifer Clinton, PhD, President of Global Ties U.S., which helped facilitate the awards process for the Six Principle winners
  • Dhani Jones, entrepreneur, TV host, author, philanthropist, and former NFL linebacker
  • Aaron Stevens (aka Damien Sandow), professional wrestler with the WWE, who resides in Louisville, KY

More Information about Featured Humanitarian Awardees

Harry Belafonte, Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Lifetime Achievement Award:

Harry Belafonte exposed America to world music and spent his life challenging and overturning racial barriers across the globe. Belafonte met a young Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on King's historic visit to New York in the early 1950s and developed a deep and abiding friendship. Belafonte played a key role in the civil rights movement, including the 1963 March on Washington. In 1985, disturbed by war, drought, and famine in Africa, Belafonte helped organize the Grammy-winning song "We Are the World," a multi-artist effort to raise funds for Africa. Belafonte was active in efforts to end apartheid in South Africa and to release Nelson Mandela.

Belafonte served as the cultural advisor for the Peace Corps, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and was honored as an Ambassador of Conscience by Amnesty International. Recently, Belafonte founded the Sankofa Justice & Equity Fund, a non-profit social justice organization that utilizes the power of culture and celebrity in partnership with activism.

Belafonte received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in November 2014.

Geena Davis, Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year Award:

Academy Award winner Geena Davis, one of Hollywood's most respected actors, is recognized for her tireless advocacy of gender equality in media nearly as much as for her acting accomplishments. She is the Founder and Chair of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which is successfully influencing film and television content creators to dramatically increase the percentages of female characters—and reduce gender stereotyping—in media targeting children 11 and under.

In 2015, Davis launched the Bentonville Film Festival (BFF), an unprecedented initiative in support of women and diversity in the entertainment industry and serves as its Co-Founder and Chair. In 2012, Davis was appointed Special Envoy for Women and Girls in ICT for the UN's International Telecommunication Union (ITU). She is an official partner of UN Women and is also the Chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women.

Davis has also received the 2006 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series Drama, an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in "The Accidental Tourist" in 1989, and numerous other nominations and accolades. Davis broke ground in her portrayal of the first female President of the United States in ABC's hit show "Commander in Chief."

Davis is also a world-class athlete (at one time was the nation's 13th-ranked archer and a semi-finalist in the Olympic Trials).

Dr. Andrew Moore, Kentucky Humanitarian of the Year:

Dr. Andrew Moore, a plastic surgeon for nearly 40 years, witnessed throughout his career the need for a program to serve individuals who "fell between the cracks" of the health care industry. Dedicated to a population of people often overlooked, Dr. Moore made it his mission to see the working poor receive outpatient surgeries they would not otherwise receive due to their inability to pay. In 2005, he founded Surgery on Sunday, a program that provides essential outpatient surgeries and procedures to the uninsured and underinsured who do not qualify for state or federal programs. It is the first program of its kind in the United States. Relying entirely on volunteers, Surgery on Sunday performs outpatient surgeries the third Sunday of each month at the Lexington Surgery Center, utilizing volunteer physicians, anesthesiologists, nurses and administrative personnel. To date, volunteers have contributed over 90,000 hours of service to assist patients in need. Since inception, the organization founded by Dr. Moore has assisted over 5,600 patients, with that number growing monthly.

Rose Mapendo, Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Gender Equality:

Rose Mapendo was born in Mulenge, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1963 to a Banyamulenge Tutsi family. She was married at the age of 16 and began raising a family. In the early 1990s, ethnic violence in the DRC changed her world almost overnight. After surviving a harrowing experience that included the arrest of her entire family, execution of her husband, birth of their twin sons in prison, grim negotiations with prison guards to save the lives of her 10 children, Mapendo experienced a seemingly miraculous chain of events that resulted in her family's rescue and resettlement in Phoenix. While Mapendo adjusted to life in the United States, she never forgot the women that she left behind and emerged from her experience advocating forgiveness and reconciliation. She established the Rose Mapendo Foundation in Phoenix that focuses on instilling a sense of worth and empowerment for women and girls, and emphasizes hope for change.

Janet Evans, Host and Presenter:

Four-time Olympic Gold Medalist Janet Evans, was a natural-born swimmer, completing laps by the age of two. In 1987, when she was just 15, Janet burst onto the international swimming scene, breaking world records in the 400m, 800m and the 1500m freestyle. A year later at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Evans won Gold Medals in all three of her races. In 1992 in Barcelona, Evans defended her gold in the 800m freestyle and added a silver in the 400m freestyle. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, Evans swam in both the 400m and 800m freestyle but failed to medal. Even so, it was at this Olympics where Evans had a winning lifetime experience that provided a powerful opportunity to see another side of the Olympics: carrying the torch at the Opening Ceremonies and passing it on to Muhammad Ali to light the Olympic cauldron—an Olympic experience which changed her forever.

Widely considered to be the greatest female distance swimmer in history, Evans has broken seven world records in three events. Her 1500m world record stood for 20 years, her 800m for 21 years, and her 400m record for 19 years. She retired from competitive swimming at the end of the Atlanta Games, but made a comeback competing in the Olympic Trials in 2012 at the age of 40.


In addition to the YUM! Brands Foundation, this year's Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards were also supported by: The Brown-Forman Corporation, LG &E and KU Energy, Horseshoe Southern Indiana, the Harold C. Schott Foundation, Tandem Public Relations and Marketing, River Bend Farms, and Ashbourne Farm.

About the Muhammad Ali Center

The Muhammad Ali Center, a 501(c)3 corporation, was co-founded by Muhammad Ali and his wife on the principles of Muhammad Ali (Confidence, Conviction, Dedication, Giving, Respect, and Spirituality) in ways that inspire personal and global greatness and provides programming and events around the focus areas of education, gender equity, and global citizenship. Its newest initiative, Generation Ali, fosters a new generation of leaders to contribute positively to their communities and to change the world for the better. The Center's headquarters also contains an award-winning museum experience. For more information, please visit


Contact Data