Tag Archives: John Cho


Reaching 50 Years, East West Players Soldiers On

Pictured above: Tim Dang, producing artistic director of East West Players. (Photo courtesy of M. Palma Photography)


Tucked inside the Union Center for the Arts in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo District sits the David Henry Hwang Theater, home to East West Players, the country’s first Asian American theatre organization that is celebrating a milestone 50th year.

A lot of history has been made at East West Players, as the framed posters lining the wall by the theater’s interior staircase illustrate. There’s one of Hwang’s 1988 Tony Award-winning M. Butterfly, revived in 2004; a 2000 production of My Tired Broke Ass Pontificating Slapstick Funk starring John Cho; and actor George Takei in a 2005 production of Equus.

Those who grew up with East West Players know that the posters only tell part of the story.

Decades before the theater would be named after him, Hwang spent much of his childhood hanging around rehearsals, since his father did the company’s accounting and his pianist mother provided musical accompaniment. Takei’s portrayal of a tortured psychiatrist in Equus partly inspired his decision to come out publicly as gay. And Cho’s onstage love interest in My Tired Broke Ass Pontificating Slapstick Funk, an “anti-romantic” comedy by Korean American playwright Euijoon Kim, was played by none other than Cho’s future wife, actress Kerri Higuchi.

The esteemed company has always been more than just a showcase for art and emerging talent—it’s created 50 years of community.

Cul-Stage-AM15-EWP1East West players’ very first production, Rashomon. 

Nearly 15 years ago, “you really couldn’t be an Asian American actor without having something to do with East West Players,” remembers Stefanie Wong Lau, the company’s former marketing director who went on to co-found Artists at Play, an independent Asian American theatre company. “I can’t count how many times [Asian Americans] would contact us and say, ‘I just moved here, and I was told I need to come by and meet people.’”

Consider that more than 75 percent of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in acting unions in Los Angeles had worked at East West Players, according to a 2006 interview Tim Dang, the company’s current producing artistic director, gave the Los Angeles Times.

Indeed, its alumni consists of a notable roster of Asian Americans, including many Korean Americans, such as Daniel Dae Kim, James Kyson, Ki Hong Lee, Jacqueline Kim and C.S. Lee, who recently returned to the stage to perform Animals Out of Paper, Pulitzer Prize-finalist Rajiv Joseph’s play about a world-renowned origami artist.

Today, East West Players has the distinction of being the longest-running professional theater of color in the U.S. Back in 1965, a group of nine Asian American artists, frustrated with the lack of non-stereotypical roles for Asian Americans in Hollywood and influenced by the American Civil Rights movement, formed the troupe, holding rehearsals in the Bethany Presbyterian Church in L.A.’s Silver Lake district. There were few Asian American playwrights at the time, so the company staged European and Japanese works (its very first production was Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s Rashomon, the source material for the award-winning 1950 Akira Kurosawa film).

Cul-Stage-AM15-EWP2John Cho, center, in Ikebana.

It wasn’t until the 1970s—the company had moved into a 99-seat black box theater in Hollywood by then—that developing original works by Asian American playwrights became a tangible goal. Korean American founding member Soon-Tek Oh penned the first original productions, including Martyrs Can’t Go Home, a play about the Korean War.

In 1998, East West Players moved into the 240-seat mid-sized equity house where it is based today. It boasts an average 10,000 audience visits per year and annually produces a full season of original Asian American works, as well as re-stagings of plays and musicals. Its 50th anniversary season, currently underway, included the world premiere of intercultural comedy Washer/Dryer and The Who’s Tommy, a classic rock musical based on The Who’s 1969 double album rock opera which opens May 7.

Many veterans of East West Players have gone on to form niche production companies, including Cold Tofu, a comedy improv and sketch group; here-and-now theatre company; Lodestone Theatre Ensemble, which spun out of Oh’s Society of Heritage Performers, a Korean American ensemble that staged provocative works dealing with themes of sex, drugs, violence and religion; and Artists at Play. Since 2011, the latter has specialized in bringing to Los Angeles Asian American plays that have already found success around the nation.

East West Players’ reputation as the premier Asian American theater in the country is built on a long legacy, and one of its challenges has been persuading the broader theater community to let go of the boundaries separating “ethnic” theater from “mainstream American” theater.

Though crossover productions exist, including Allegiance, a musical starring Takei about Japanese Americans in U.S. internment camps set to open on Broadway later this year, Dang feels there is still a long way to go before mainstream theater begins to truly reflect the experience of people of color—who, by 2042, are expected to outnumber non-Hispanic whites. Dang recently launched a diversity initiative called “The 51% Preparedness Plan,” which challenges mainstream theaters to diversify their personnel to include 51 percent women, youth or minorities over the next five years.

Cul-Stage-AM15-EWP3Daniel Dae Kim in Golden Child.

“I think TV and film are getting the message really quickly and starting to have a lot more people of color onscreen,” Dang says. “They’re realizing this is the way they need to do business now. But theater is behind the curve.”

Another challenge to the established theater group is the fact that young Asian American talent, plus their audiences, is increasingly flocking to the digital medium.

Over the last several years, many theaters whose mission was to promote Asian American artists and storytellers have either scaled back operations or shut down completely. Thus, for a company that created the Asian American theater scene five decades ago and continues to lead it, seeking new ways to stay relevant and attract new audience members is a priority.

For example, while the leads in Washer/Dryer were Indian American and Chinese American, the supporting roles included a Caucasian neighbor and a gay African American best friend. In its casting call for The Who’s Tommy, East West Players sought out Latinos, Middle Eastern Americans and Native Americans.

“We need to practice what we preach,” Dang says. “And that means we have to open up and be more inclusive. There will still be an emphasis on Asian Americans, but Asian Americans don’t live in a vacuum.

“I’m on the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation, so it was a big thing to be proud to be Asian because we were so invisible,” Dang adds. “But if you talk to the younger generation, the thinking is different. They are individuals of many intersections. And I’m happy to see that we’ve progressed in a way that Asian Americans are comfortable being part of the [greater American] community.”


All production stills courtesy of East West Players

This article was published in the April/May 2015 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the April/May issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).

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korean americans on the road to fame

25 Years of KoreAm Covers: Koreans on the Road to Fame

To mark the 25th anniversary of KoreAm Journal, we’re revisiting some memorable covers from the magazine’s archives.

Take a look at some of the creative talent, athletes, influential figures, social issues and tragic events that have appeared on our cover. The panoply of images, we hope, will serve as a historical flashback, a glimpse into the people that inspired us, the issues we explored and the events that called for deeper reflection over the last 25 years.

Here are some notable Koreans who have been featured on KoreAm before they skyrocketed to stardom.


Margaret Cho (Aug. 1994): “She’s thrilled and so are her fans who are anxiously awaiting the first Asian American sitcom to ever air,” KoreAm wrote about the then-25-year-old comedienne in this Aug. 1994 cover story shortly before the debut of All American Girl.


Ahn Trio (Jan. 1998): The sister music trio is deemed by KoreAm as, “one of chamber music’s most gifted and promising young ensembles.”


Sandra Oh (July 1998): Before the Korean Canadian actress become a household name as Dr. Cristina Yang on Grey’s Anatomy and landed a number of leading screen roles, she was on the cast of HBO’s comedy series Arli$$, which KoreAm wrote about in this July 1998 cover story.

Rick Yune (Dec. 1999)Rick Yune (Dec. 1999)

Amerie (Sept. 2002)Amerie (Sept. 2002)

Karen O. ( June 2003)Karen O. ( June 2003)

John Cho (July 2004)John Cho (July 2004)

Suchin Park (2006)Suchin Park (2006)

Yu Kwon (Feb. 2007)Yu Kwon (Feb. 2007)

Daniel Dae Kim (April 2010)Daniel Dae Kim (April 2010)

Psy (Dec. 2012)


Psy (Dec. 2012)

Stay tuned for the next chapter of “25 Years of KoreAm Covers.” We’ll be showing you various influential media and government figures who have graced our magazine’s covers.

Go to Next Chapter ->



John Cho to Guest Star in ‘New Girl’

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

FOX has renewed the Zooey Deschanel comedy New Girl for a fifth season, and John Cho will be featured as a guest star.

Cho, who starred as the leading man in last year’s prematurely canceled ABC rom-com Selfie, is set to appear as a guest star for at least one episode in the upcoming season. He will be portraying a guy that Jess, the protagonist, meets when she “excitedly reports for jury duty,” according to TVLine.

After Hulu aired the remaining episodes of Selfie, Cho has been keeping busy with indie film roles and guest appearances on the small screen. He was last seen as a dashing drug kingpin named Big Murder in episode 16 of The Mindy Projects third season.

The-Mindy-Project-3.16Photo courtesy of JohnCho.net

Cho is set to reprise his role as Hikaru Sulu in Star Trek 3, which will be directed by Justin Lin.


Featured image courtesy of JohnCho.net

koream 2014 covers

KoreAm Journal’s 2014 Covers

As 2014 draws to a close, KoreAm takes a look back at this past year’s cover stories.

January 2014

tiger jk koream cover jan 2014Read Tiger JK’s cover story here.

February 2014

arden cho koream feb 2014 coverRead Arden Cho’s cover story here.

March 2014

run river north koream mar 2014 coverRead Run River North’s cover story here

April 2014

ej ok koream april 2014 coverRead E.J. Ok’s cover story here.

May 2014

sandra oh koream may 2014 coverRead Sandra Oh’s cover story here

June 2014

sung kang koream june 2014 coverRead Sung Kang’s cover story here.

July 2014

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 3.08.36 PM
Read the cover story “Asian Americans: The New White?” here.

August/September 2014

shin-soo choo koream aug 2014 coverRead Shin-soo Choo’s cover story here.

October/November 2014

john cho koream oct nov 2014 coverRead John Cho’s cover story here

December 2014/January 2015

randall park dec jan 2015 coverRead Randall Park’s cover story here


To subscribe to KoreAm, click here. To purchase a copy of a past magazine issue, please contact our office via phone at (310) 769-4913 x 221 or via email at admin@iamkoream.com.


Justin Lin to Direct ‘Star Trek 3′

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

The Fast & Furious director Justin Lin has signed on to direct Star Trek 3, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Lin will be replacing Roberto Orci, who stepped down from the director’s chair in early December. The film would have marked the directorial debut of Orci, who wrote the first two installments of Paramount’s rebooted Star Trek franchise with his former writing partner Alex Kurtzman.

J.J. Abrams directed both 2009’s Star Trek and 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, but chose not to return for the third film in order to helm Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

According to Deadline, Lin was the only one offered the project despite numerous top-rated directors being named as possible contenders. He apparently nabbed this year’s biggest open directing job because he became available after The Bourne Legacy sequel he was attached to direct with Jeremy Renner was delayed when Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass agreed to do another installment of The Bourne Identity series.

To put it simply, it was fate.

Lin comes to the wildly successful Star Trek franchise after helming Fast & Furious 6, Fast Five, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious. Before he directs the third Star Trek installment, Lin will be directing the first two episodes of True Detective Season 2 for HBO.


Photo courtesy of Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic


Unforgettable 2014: A Night of Glamour and Stars

story by JAMES S. KIM, with additional reporting by AMBER CHEN

In a toast to new beginnings and old friendships alike, the 13th annual Unforgettable gala, a blacktie affair held at The Legendary Park Plaza in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, celebrated both established and fresh faces of Asian Americans making their mark in film, television and music.

Some 500 guests had even more of a reason to raise their glasses of Royal Salute Scotch whisky this year: multimedia conglomerate London Trust Media, Inc. (LTM) officially announced its acquisition of KoreAm Journal and sister publication Audrey Magazine. Founded in 2009, LTM has a portfolio that includes Feel Ghood Music and Private Internet Access, a VPN provider. The glitzy event honored veteran actors Ming-Na Wen and John Cho and bestowed Breakout Star of the Year awards upon Arden Cho and Ki Hong Lee. Wen was Audrey’s second cover model when the fashion and beauty magazine first launched 11 years ago. John Cho has graced the cover of the nearly 25-year-old KoreAm no fewer than four times over the course of his career.

Actor Brain Tee (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) and actress Karen David (The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior) honored Cho with the first of his two awards of the evening: Actor of the Year, for Cho’s co-starring role on ABC’s short-lived sitcom Selfie.

“There must be some mistake, my show was canceled,” Cho quipped upon receiving the award. The actor, whose film credits include the American Pie franchise, the Harold and Kumar trilogy and the Star Trek film installments, also received the evening’s Royal Salute Mark of Respect award.

john cho award speech

In his first speech of the evening, the actor gave a heartfelt thank you to his father, who was seated in the audience, before noting to the crowd that his parents didn’t take his acting career seriously until they saw a short profile on him in the Korea Times.

Reflecting on his career, Cho also thanked KoreAm for its long tradition of covering Korean Americans in the industry and elsewhere.

“I’ve seen KoreAm develop from …[being] printed on newspaper,” Cho said in his second speech of the night. “I’ve seen other Asian American publications come and go. What I believe you’re doing that separates [you from] those [publications] that have fallen by the wayside is you keep pressing into Korean American issues. You’re doing features on comfort women, adoptees, sports figures. You’re spanning the breadth of the Korean and Korean American experience. I applaud you for that.”

Unforgettable sponsor Royal Salute applauded this year’s recipients.

john cho mark of respect award

“We were honored to be a part of this year’s Unforgettable Awards to honor actor John Cho with the Royal Salute Mark of Respect Award,” said Laurent Cutier, Director of Scotch and Single Malt Portfolio, Pernod Ricard USA. “John truly embodies the Royal Salute spirit of leadership, dedication to community, and passion for producing quality work and is such a great example for future Asians and Asian Americans looking to break into the entertainment business. Congratulations to John and all the rest of the award recipients this year.”

Former San Diego news anchor Lee Ann Kim, the executive director at Pacific Arts Movement, and actor Jimmy O. Yang served as the night’s co-emcees. Los Angeles-based ABC sports anchor Rob Fukuzaki and actress Lynn Chen (Saving Face) presented the Actress of the Year award to Wen (best known for her critically acclaimed performance in The Joy Luck Club and Disney’s Mulan), who said in her acceptance speech that playing a “kick-ass” character on ABC’s action drama series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a “dream job.”

“It was a really tough launch and was a major undertaking,” Wen recalled of Audrey’s early days, “so it’s fantastic that so many years later now [the magazine] is merging with a company that’s going to try and expand it. It’s great!”

ming na speech

Fresh off his “amazing experience” playing the young protagonist Hiro in Disney blockbuster Big Hero 6, Ryan Potter, co-presented, with K-pop artist G.NA, the Female Breakout Star of the Year award to Arden Cho for her role in MTV’s Teen Wolf.

Upon receiving her award, Cho told the audience she was “grateful,” but felt the award was premature, as her dual acting-singing career is just getting underway.

“So many amazing, talented Asian American actors and actresses have paved the way for me,” she said. “It feels surreal that I am now a part of that movement, and with that I also feel a sense of responsibility. I hope I can encourage more Asian American artists to pursue their talents and dreams, despite the obstacles and rejections.

arden speech1

The Male Breakout Star of the Year award was given to Ki Hong Lee for his role in the sci-fi action thriller film The Maze Runner.

The 28-year-old accepted the honor via video, since he was out of town filming The Maze Runner sequel.

“For those of you who are still trying to figure out what to do with your lives, just know that there’s a community of Korean Americans in the industry who are willing to help you and support you,” Lee encouraged in his video speech. “Please don’t be afraid to reach out.”

As the evening’s  guests feasted on a three course dinner of mixed greens, galbijjim and jumbo prawn, along with rum raisin bread pudding for dessert, courtesy of KAY12 catering, they also enjoyed performances by some of the best Asian American artists in town. Urban dance group KINJAZ kicked off the evening’s entertainment with a mesmerizing, impeccably-synchronized routine.

Recording artist and The Voice Season 5 winner Tessanne Chin gave one heck of a performance, singing Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” at her first Unforgettable—a “bolt of lightning,” John Cho said. After a busy year touring for her new album, Chin said she was looking forward to some downtime for the rest of the year.

“Seeing my family, good food, doing nothing for a week or two—that sounds like bliss to me right now,” Chin said, on the red carpet.

Unforgettable 2014 solo performers

Choreographer and dancer Mike Song teamed up with beat box champion Terry Im, a.k.a. KRNFX, for an entertaining routine of their own featuring intricate steps and beatboxing sounds. Their unique performance brought down the house.

Musician David Choi provided guitar accompaniment while Arden Cho performed a number that had the crowd joining in. G.NA, in her first Unforgettable, showered the room with K-pop with her hit singles “I’ll Back Off So You Can Live” and “Black and White.”

Korean hip-hop icons Yoon Mi-rae, Tiger JK and Bizzy, artists represented by Feel Ghood Music, an LTM subsidiary, capped off the evening’s performances with their singles “Sweet Dream” and “Get It In,” in an encore performance from last year’s Unforgettable. London Trust Media CEO Sung Park said he felt nothing but optimism for the future of KoreAm, Audrey and Unforgettable.

“LTM is honored to carry on and carry forward the publications and Unforgettable to the next level,” he said. “We take the wisdom from the past, the courage to push boundaries today, and we will create new, exciting opportunities for the future.”

Park added, “[Our] goal is to innovate Unforgettable to become a bridge and a platform for not only Asian Americans, but Asians internationally to be recognized and honored.”

KoreAm publisher James Ryu, who cofounded the magazine with his father in 1990, expressed the same optimism.

“They represent a different generation,” he said, of LTM’s leadership. “They’re also a tech company, and we’re hoping that they’ll help us with our online presence. I know that they’re going to be bringing new ideas and a new direction to our magazines.”

tiger jk james ryu“Bear meets Tiger:” Tammy Ryu, James Ryu and Tiger JK.

yoon mirae carpetBizzy, Yoon Mirae and Tiger JK are dressed to the nines in their matching suits. 

han ji minSouth Korean actors Ko Soo and Han Ji Min look absolutely radiant.

hostsLee Ann Kim, Jimmy O.Yang, hosts for the evening.

brian tee karen davidKaren David and Brian Tee applaud Actor of the Year John Cho.

special guests at tableSean Richard Dulake, John H. Lee, David Lee McInnis raise a toast while Fan Yang gives two thumbs up.

audience at tablesUnforgettable guests remain captivated all evening long. 

hosts tableRob Fukuzaki, Lynn Chen, Lee Ann Kim, Jimmy O. Yang and Louis Song enjoy dinner with their fellow guests.

anna akana tableAnna Akana, presenter, and her date beam at the camera.

arden ryan potterArden Cho greets Ryan Potter after receiving her award.

kinjaz perfKINJAZ kicks off the night’s performances with their signature tight choreography.

mike songTerry Im (KRNFX) and Mike Song mesmerize the crowd with their beatbox-dance combo.

lisa ling and john choDr. Paul Song, Lisa Ling and John Cho



Unforgettable was possible thanks to title sponsor Royal Salute and presenting sponsor DuraCoat, as well as the following corporate sponsors: Shiseido, Vistamar School, BBCN Bank, Pechanga Resort & Casino, Pulmuone, CBS Corporation, Bethel Counsel, Legal Zoom, Paramount, Sony, Warner Bros., Park Plaza; community sponsors: Sheppard Mullin, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, Measured Media, Daewoo Security, Ocean Radiation Oncology; hotel partner: Line Hotel; and airline partner: Asiana Airlines.

This article was published in the December/January 2015 issue of KoreAmSubscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the December/January issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).


‘Selfie’ to Stream on Hulu

by STEVE HAN | @steve_han

ABC’s romantic comedy series Selfie, starring John Cho and Karen Gillan, has found a new home on Hulu.

The video streaming site announced Monday that it has agreed to pick up Selfie after ABC canceled the Warner Bros. show earlier this month. Hulu will release the the six unaired episodes on Hulu and Hulu Plus on a weekly basis starting Tuesday, the series creator Emily Kapnek announced on Twitter. The episodes will also be available on ABC.com.

ABC scrapped Selfie from its Tuesday night lineup after the series opened with an underwhelming 5.3 million viewers and a 1.6 ratings among adults aged between 18 and 49, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Manhattan Love Story was also taken out of ABC’s lineup for the same reason.

This is not the first time Hulu has adopted an axed ABC Comedy. Last year, the streamer hosted the remaining episodes of Apartment 23  on its site after ABC canceled the show due to poor ratings.

Photo courtesy of Hollywood.com


LINK ATTACK: Ki Hong Lee, Millennials in NKorea, Veterans Day

How Millennials Are Shaking North Korea’s Regime
“My generation, they’re not really worshiping the Kim regime sincerely, just pretending. That’s what we call the black market generation,” Yeonmi Park tells NBC News.

SKorean Province Donates $100K for Jersey City’s Vandalized War Memorial
“The veterans never expected that the Korean people would remember what they fought for 60 years ago, but they do appreciate the sacrifice you guys made,” said Jersey City Councilman Yun.

Maze Runner Star Ki Hong Lee Navigates His Way Through Hollywood
“I feel that the Korean community has my back in terms of what I’ve done and where I’ve come from. I appreciate that very much,” Ki Hong Lee tells The Korea Times.

Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 4.10.39 PMPhoto courtesy of Ki Hong Lee

Korean Laker Girl Sujan Pang: Defying Expectations
Laker Girl Sujan Pang talks to Korea Times about her journey to joining arguably the most prestigious cheerleading squad in the sports world.

Sundance Institute/Asian American Feature Film Fellowship
The Sundance Institute is currently accepting applications from Asian American filmmakers for the Asian American Feature Film Fellowship. Deadline is Dec. 15.

Why “Selfie’s” Cancellation is a Massive Shame: This Was the Most Promising Interracial Couple on TV
““Selfie’s” cancellation is a blow for the movement of Getting John Cho Laid On-Screen — the superficial arm of the larger organization titled Hey TV, Not Everyone Is White, In Case You Hadn’t Noticed.”

selfiePhoto courtesy of ABC/Eric McCandless

A Brief History of Political Collaborations Between Latinos and Asians in America
Hyphen magazine covers the history of longstanding collaborations forged by Latinos and Asians in America.

Starbucks’ Foreigner-friendly Policy on WiFi Upsets Koreans
“Starbucks in Korea has come under criticism from Koreans who have discovered that the coffee giant has been demanding more personal information from Korean customers than foreigners to use its free WiFi service.”

Korean Officials Under Fire After Mentioning a Tax on Being Single
“Would more South Koreans shack up and produce offspring if the government raised the price of being single with a new tax?”


Veterans Day Remembrance: America’s ‘First Korean War Bride’ Comes Home
“Crowds cheered excitedly, whistles tooted. Seattle and the U.S. were welcoming the first Korean war bride to arrive in America, Mrs. Johnie Morgan, home with her sergeant husband.”

141110-wayne-miller-korean-bride-01Photo courtesy of Wayne Miller/Magnum

Two Korean Americans Throw in Names for L.A. City Council
“General elections may be over for 26 Korean Americans who ran for office, but for two more political hopefuls — District 4 candidate David Ryu and District 10 candidate Grace Yoo — the race for the Los Angeles City Council in next year’s March 3 election has just begun.”

First Look at the Coming-of-Age Teen Comedy Soul Searching 
“The upcoming indie feature film Seoul Searching is a coming-of-age teen comedy written and directed by Benson Lee. Set in the 1980s, the film is based on Benson’s personal experiences in 1986 at a government-sponsored summer camp for Koreans from around the world to learn about their heritage.”

Northridge Woman Recounts Challenges of Being First Asian-American Woman to Serve in U.S. Navy
“Susan Anh Cuddy was the first Asian-American woman in the U.S. Navy`s Waves program. She joined in 1942 and served during the cold war. Part of her duties included breaking enemy codes.”

5 Asian Authors Who Should Be Taught in Every High School
Audrey Magazine compiles five prominent Asian authors that should be introduced to the American education system.

Featured photo courtesy of Humanrightsfoundation.org