After twenty years at the helm CRNI’s founder and director Dr Robert Russell steps down from leadership of our organization.
“Bro” Russell’s lifelong commitment to human rights and dignity began as a Peace Corps volunteer in the sixties. He went on to spend over two decades in Africa and Asia as a consultant in institutional development and humanitarian assistance. In 2012 the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) presented him with their Ink Bottle Award for an outstanding contribution to the profession of editorial cartooning. Tributes have been paid once in the same setting this weekend as the retirement of CRNI’s founder and long-serving director was announced at the AAEC convention in Columbus, OH.
CRNI was recognised for its campaigning work earlier this year at Index On Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Awards. The prize itself, a cartoon by Egypt’s Doaa Eladl was presented to Dr Russell by his deputy director Terry Anderson. It was also announced that in acknowledgment of his decades of hard work and considerable sacrifice in the face of difficult circumstances the CRNI board will rename our own annual award and so will soon present the Robert Russell Courage in Cartooning Award to a cartoonist who has exhibited exemplary resolve over the past year. Meanwhile we won’t be losing Bro’s expertise as he will serve as a member of our board of directors henceforth and for as long as he wishes.
The evening proved to be successful one for multiple CRNI leaders. Our former president Kevin “KAL” Kallaugher won AAEC’s Rex Babin Memorial Award for local press cartoons and long-time advisor Ann Telnaes received the Ink Bottle Award for her sterling work in the promotion of cartooning, most recently her co-curation of a major exhibit about the First Amendment still running at The Billy Ireland Library & Museum. Blogger Mike Peterson has a good round up of the night as well as the panel on free speech issues we presented earlier in the convention schedule.
“Cartoonists have so much imagination. I ask those reading this to use it for a moment and contemplate the unthinkably fearful horror of hearing a cell door lock behind you, undeserved retribution for the simple patriotic act of dissent.Joel Pett, President, CRNI
Now, try and imagine the joyful flood of relief as it creaks open one day, inviting light, freedom and hope.
I know you all join me in thanking Robert Russell for his years-long dedication to making that latter scenario a reality.”
Members of CRNI’s extended family — board members and advisors past and present, Courage Award winners and other client cartoonists — sent their best wishes by video…
Full remarks from the evening are in the video below…
“Earlier this year I had the opportunity to catch up with several cartoonists whose past woes have been covered by CRNI, all of them settled and pursuing new careers in various countries within the EU. I was speaking with Arifur Rahman, once a prisoner in Bangladesh and now thriving in Norway, who described his time in isolation and said, only half-jokingly, that he prayed daily; God gave no answer but Bro Russell did! I think Arifur’s tale would resonate with many others around the globe whose troubles were shared and in ways big and small alleviated thanks to Bro and the network he’s built.”Terry Anderson, Deputy Executive Director, CRNI
Naturally this change marks a significant milestone in CRNI’s journey but friends and colleagues can rest assured we will continue to work toward the same goals, dedicated to the defence of cartoonists’ freedom of expression. Of course we can always use more support and so if you are in a position to volunteer as a regional representative, join our board of directors or become a donor we want to hear from you.
And you will hear more from us in the days ahead as we announce the recipient of our newly-named award.