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Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

Winners of Yip Harburg Youth Activist Award

FFRF is proud to announce the three students with art-related majors who are winners of this year’s Yip Harburg Youth Activist Award. They will receive $1,000.

The generously endowed scholarship is from the Yip Harburg Foundation and FFRF Members Ernie and Margie Harburg, the children of the famous lyricist of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Here are the bios of the three winners, who did not want their last names used.


The first in his family to go to college, Daniel is majoring in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design and enjoys using his photos to tell stories and evoke feelings about race, sexuality and femininity.

Daniel grew up with a religious Dominican mother, who credited God for everything they had. Daniel felt his mother was “discrediting all the hard work she’s done for our family and all the sacrifices she’s made.” When Daniel realized he was gay, he re-examined his religious beliefs, concluding there was no god and people were using God as a coping mechanism for the things going on in the world.

Daniel organized a photography fundraiser with other local photographers for the Black Lives Matter movement. While Daniel’s photography centers around empowering women and showing the diversity of what it means to be a woman, he hopes to discuss humanistic and racial themes through his photography and art.

An atheist, gay, pro-Black-Lives-Matter feminist, Daniel feels we should be able to accept each other’s differences and exist amicably. Everyone should be free to express their beliefs without fear of backlash and without invalidating other people’s beliefs.


Catherine is a theatre and music lighting designer major at Rutgers University. At the age of 15, she was interested in the technical side of theatre and hopes to work on Broadway and eventually become a teacher. Catherine believes theatre and other storytelling art helps mold young minds into being more compassionate people.

Catherine’s grandfather was a deacon and multiple great aunts and uncles are nuns and monks. Despite this, her religious parents raised her in a home devoid of religion, so, when she was old enough, she chose on her own. “I am an atheist and proud of it,” she says.

Catherine is a very outspoken activist, believing the church should not hold control in the government. Catherine feels the impact of Christianity is negatively impacting women’s reproductive rights and marriage equality. She has participated in multiple woman’s rights marches, Gay Pride week, March for Science and Black Lives Matter protests. In high school, she was captain of the debate team, writing mock bills focused on race and gender.


As a Navajo native from Idaho, Braxton grew up in an LDS-Mormon family. Braxton felt the church and most members shunned his family because of their non-traditional background, family member’s addictions, and their overall lifestyle. Eight years ago, Braxton officially left the church because he disagreed with the church’s vocal stance against same-sex marriage, among other things. “I now identify as an atheist and strive to show people good comes from good people, not God,” Braxton says.

Braxton saved enough money to attend Utah Valley University as an audio digital media major, but during his second semester, he was struck by a car while biking to work, fracturing his skull and rendering him unconscious for three days. After three weeks in the hospital, he re-learned how to balance, walk and speak. While his doctors suggested he drop out of school, Braxton decided nothing was going to stop him from being the first of his family to get a bachelor’s degree. When he came back to UVU, he started the Chess, Audio and Card Games Club on campus. He also started a volunteer and internship program between UVU and Primary Children’s Hospital for fellow audio and video production students, all while being a full-time student and maintaining a 3.7 GPA. This year, he opened a concert/recording space for musicians and songwriters to combat Utah’s “censorship for the sake of censorship.”

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