Gustavo Gutiérrez (1928 – ) is a Roman Catholic theologian and Dominican priest who is considered the father of liberation theology, which emphasizes a Christian duty to aid the poor and oppressed through involvement in civic and political affairs.
The author of numerous books and articles, Gutiérrez is perhaps best known for his Teología de la liberación (1971; A Theology of Liberation), the foundational text of liberation theology.
In that work, Gutiérrez developed a new spirituality based on solidarity with the poor and called on the church to help change existing social and economic institutions to promote social justice. Although liberation theology had great impact, especially in Latin America, it was less welcome in Rome because of its Marxist overtones, and Pope John Paul II accordingly sought to limit its influence in the 1980s.
According to Gutiérrez true “liberation” has three main dimensions:
First, it involves political and social liberation, the elimination of the immediate causes of poverty and injustice.
Second, liberation involves the emancipation of the poor, the marginalized, the downtrodden and the oppressed from all “those things that limit their capacity to develop themselves freely and in dignity”.
Third, liberation theology involves liberation from selfishness and sin, a re-establishment of a relationship with God and with other people.
Jean Vanier, (1928 – ) is a Canadian Catholic philosopher, theologian, and humanitarian. In 1964 he founded L’Arche, an international federation of communities spread over 37 countries, for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them.
He continues to live as a member of the original L’Arche community in Trosly-Breuil, France. Over the years, he has authored 30 books on religion, disability, normality, success, and tolerance.
Vanier has established 147 L’Arche communities in 37 countries around the world which have become places of pilgrimage for those involved. He travels widely, visiting other L’Arche communities, encouraging projects for new communities, and giving lectures and retreats.
During one of his lectures he touched on his distaste for barriers around people with intellectual disabilities, a motivating philosophy behind L’Arche: “We must do what we can to diminish walls, to meet each other. Why do we put people with disabilities behind walls?”
Marian Anderson (1897 – 1993) was an American contralto and one of the most celebrated singers of the twentieth century. Anderson became an important figure in the struggle for black artists to overcome racial prejudice in the United States during the mid-twentieth century. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. With the aid of Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. She sang before a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions. Anderson continued to break barriers for black artists in the United States, becoming the first black person to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 7, 1955. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Anderson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, the Kennedy Center Honors in 1978, the National Medal of Arts in 1986, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991.
Here is a video of her historic performance at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939.