Voices Against Indifference Initiative

The Harry Wu Project

January – February 2000


Press Release 2.1.00

For immediate release 

For more information, contact:

Kathy Rowan – 704.541.7529 or

Stephanie Ansaldo – 704.347.3844

McColl Honors Joe Martin at Echo Foundation Dinner Feb. 23; Keynote Speaker Harry Wu Brings Message to Student Community

February 1, 2000 (Charlotte, NC) – Bank of America Chairman and CEO Hugh McColl, Jr. will honor longtime friend and business associate Joe Martin with the first annual “Echo Award Against Indifference” at the Echo Foundation Benefit Award Dinner, 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 23, at the Hilton Charlotte & Towers.

“Joe Martin’s compassionate spirit and tireless efforts to promote understanding in the Charlotte community make him the quintessential Echo Award recipient,” says Echo President and Founder Stephanie Ansaldo. “His unwavering respect for human dignity and his courageous stand for justice exemplify our mission — “to raise a voice against indifference that resonates into action.”

Martin, a dedicated community advocate and business leader, is well known for his compassion and wit. But, his urgent plea for a halt to the divisive discourse surrounding arts funding issues in 1997, and his initiation of “Race Day,” which encouraged people of different races to lunch together, thrust him into the limelight and earned him a special place in the heart of the Charlotte community. When naming a Bank of America scholarship program for Martin, McColl called him “the conscience of our culture,” and noted that, “his enduring message is that each of us can make a commitment to make a difference.” Martin remains committed to Bank of America, as special counsel to the chairman, and to speaking out for equality and justice, even as he battles the physical limitations imposed by ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease.)

McColl’s tribute to Martin will follow remarks by keynote speaker Harry Wu. Incarcerated 19 years as a political prisoner in China’s forced labor camps, Wu gained international recognition with his unrelenting crusade to expose current human rights issues in China and around the globe. The Echo Foundation hopes Wu’s visit (Feb. 22-24) also elicits dialogue among Charlotte youth through its educational programs centered on his message about the responsibility that accompanies freedom.

A limited number of dinner tickets ($150 individual, $1,500 table, $3,000 corporate sponsor) are available by calling The Echo Foundation at (704) 347-3844.

Echo Foundation activities planned in conjunction with Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools include:

· Student Dialogue with Harry Wu, 1 p.m., Feb. 23 at Independence High School – 600-plus students and teachers from 19 Charlotte area high schools will attend.

· Off-Site Student Participation – students at other area schools can watch the dialogue in their classrooms and submit questions to Harry Wu. Time Warner Cable has installed cable wiring and service, and created a special e-mail site to make this possible.

· Live Public Broadcast of Student Dialogue, 1 p.m., Feb. 23 – will air on Time Warner Cable channel 58.

· The Harry Wu Project Documentary – Time Warner Cable will produce a documentary of the dialogue and Wu’s visit for rebroadcast at a later date, as well as for distribution to high schools nationwide.

· High School Writing Contest (Deadline, Feb. 7) – students to submit 1,500-3,000-word essay on the question: “Do you believe there is a moral and ethical obligation for those of us who enjoy freedom to promote justice and tolerance for all humankind, at home and around the globe? Two scholarships for travel to China to be awarded by The Echo Foundation and Harry Wu at the student dialogue. Entry form and contest rules available here or call Independence teacher Anna Wilbanks – 704.343.6900.

· Echo Foundation Educator Award – Harry Wu to present award to an area teacher who goes beyond the basics to weave compassion for humanity and moral decision-making into his/her daily interaction with students. Entry forms available from  Anna Wilbanks – 704.343.6900. Deadline is Feb. 4.

· Student Tolerance Day, 1 p.m., Feb. 10 at Independence High School – program for all students and teachers attending dialogue to learn about Wu, his message and China.

· Free Curriculum Materials Available Feb. 10 – educational packet for teachers to prepare students for dialogue with Harry Wu, and to encourage discussion about human rights and justice – call Anna Wilbanks – 704.343.6900.

In addition to the above, Johnson C. Smith University and UNCC will host a seminar with Harry Wu for area university and college scholars at 2 p.m., Feb. 24 at Johnson C. Smith University.

Stephanie Ansaldo founded The Echo Foundation in 1997 at the suggestion of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel. Following his visit to Charlotte, Wiesel pledged his support to create a foundation which would bring voices and programs together that “echo” the message for human dignity, justice and moral courage.

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Note to Media: Harry Wu will be available for questions at approximately 2:15 p.m., Wed., Feb. 23 following the student dialogue at Independence High School. Please call Kathy Rowan- 704.541.7529 to arrange any additional interviews with Harry Wu or Echo Foundation President Stephanie Ansaldo, or if you need more information for coverage of these events.