On Friday, April 13, Special Needs Network will stand shoulder to shoulder with elected officials, advocates, and community leaders around the country at the 6th Annual Legislative Breakfast taking place at the Radisson Hotel Midtown at USC to pay tribute to Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old high schooler from Sanford, Florida who was shot and killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. As a part of the tribute, acclaimed actress and playwright Charlayne Woodard will perform an original piece written especially for this occasion.
A two-time Obie Award winner and a Tony Award nominee, Woodard is a veteran stage performer who has been heralded as a storyteller extraordinaire. She recently completed a successful run at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City of her one-woman performance, The Night Watcher – a story about the trials and triumphs as a godmother and an aunt. No stranger to the small screen either, Woodard has played the roles of Janice on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; Vonda on Roseanne; and Sister Peg on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
Since its founding in 2005, SNN has been on the frontlines of the fight for equality for children and youths, with a focus on those with autism and related developmental disabilities.
“The death of Trayvon is a tragedy, and we are excited to have Charlayne’s performance celebrate his life and inspire our audience to do more to protect and empower all kids, regardless of whether they wear a hoodie, or have problems with spoken language because they are autistic,” says entertainment lawyer and children’s books author Bonnie Berry LaMon, who serves on SNN’s Board of Directors and has a seven-year-old son with autism.
“Although Trayvon was not autistic, his death is a sobering reminder of how easy it is for children of color to be stereotyped because of their clothing and behaviors. If Trayvon was considered ‘suspicious’, then a child with autism who flaps his arms and spins would definitely be viewed as suspect,” says SNN President and Co-Founder Areva Martin, Esq.
Indeed, Trayvon’s death ignited a firestorm of emotions as hundreds of thousands across the country took to the streets to protest the Sanford Police Department’s decision to not arrest Zimmerman, who claims self-defense and is protected under Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.
“We are humbled by the opportunity to join prominent leaders from around the country in a demonstration of solidarity in calling for justice for Trayvon and his family,” says Areva Martin, who is also a nationally-recognized children’s rights advocate. “We hope to raise awareness about the dire need for education and advocacy, and ensure that all kids are protected from senseless violence and given every opportunity to thrive.”
The 6th Annual Legislative Breakfast – themed “Pathways to Equality” – will host prominent local, state, and national elected officials and community leaders including L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, CA State Senator Curren Price, Jr., California Endowment President Dr. Robert Ross, CA State Assembly member Holly J. Mitchell, SEIU-LTCW President LaPhonza Butler and Mexican American Legal Defense Fund President Attorney Thomas A. Saenz, Esq. ABC News anchor Marc Brown will serve as the emcee and host a panel discussion.
Panelists will be asked to address the challenges and opportunities in providing quality health care and educational services to families inSouth Los Angeles. As the US Supreme Court deliberates whether the Obama Affordable Care Act is constitutional, panelists will explore the question of whether access to quality health care is a fundamental right. Following the panel discussion, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas will give closing remarks.
Sponsored by Toyota, First5LA, the Empowerment Congress, SEIU-LTCW, Office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, and the California Legislative Black Caucus, the 6th Annual Legislative Breakfast is the kick-off event for SNN’s two-day Tools for Transformation Conference – the biggest and most comprehensive free autism and developmental disabilities conference in Los Angeles. This event will feature workshops by the country’s most renowned experts, advanced advocacy training, a massive resource and health fare, book signings, awards presentations, and free give-aways including iPads. Breakfast, lunch, and childcare are also provided.
The 6th Annual Tools for Transformation Conference and Legislative Breakfast is free and open to the public. To register, please visit www.tft2012.eventbrite.com or call 213-389-7100.