“The Walking Dead” actress joins international leaders at women’s forum

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“The Walking Dead” actress Danai Gurira introduced honoree Gale Anne Hurd at the International Women’s Forum gala. Photo: Jennifer Brett

Danai Gurira, who plays the fierce and fearless Michonne on “The Walking Dead,” joined a group of equally impressive women from around the world at the International Women’s Forum’s Hall of Fame gala, held Friday at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta.

Gurira introduced IWF International Hall of Fame honoree Gale Anne Hurd, known as “The First Lady of Sci-Fi” for her long and impressive career in film and television. Her many credits include producing and co-writing “The Terminator,” and working on a slew of projects including “Aliens,” “The Abyss,” “The Ghost and the Darkness,” and “Dante’s Peak.”

More recently Hurd has served as executive producer for “The Walking Dead” and a consulting producer for the popular spin-off “The Talking Dead.” She will serve as producer for the new “Walking Dead” companion series airing next year.

“I was looking for a role model,” Gurira said. “I am honored to call her my boss.”

Here’s a video clip of Gurira describing her audition process for “The Walking Dead,” and how Hurd has inspired her:

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The fierce and fearless “Michonne.” Photo: AMC/The Walking Dead

The two used their time at the microphone to urge prominent women from around the world to maintain a focus on the girls kidnapped by the militant terrorist group Boko Haram. Although reports indicated that the Nigerian government was in the process of freeing the abducted schoolgirls, a message from a Boko Haram leader said “the missing schoolgirls have converted to Islam and have all been married off.” 

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Danai Gurira said during “Walking Dead” auditions she quickly learned that Hurd was “the one to pay attention to” and greatly admires her as a role model. Photo: Jennifer Brett

“Given the power and influence of the women in this room, I know we can change the world,” said Hurd, who read a harrowing excerpt from a BBC interview with girls who had escaped their kidnappers.. “We cannot forget these girls.”

The IWF’s 2014 World Leadership Conference and Gala committee leaders included co-chairs Marsha Sampson Johnson and Julia Emmons; president Annette Cone-Skelton; gala chair Pat Upshaw-Monteith and fundraising chair Shirley Mitchell. Marilyn Johnson served as emcee. Sein Chew is 2014-15 president of the IWF.

Gala honorees included former Georgia and U.S. First Lady Rosalynn Carter, co-founder of the Carter Center, where she chairs the Mental Health Task Force. She was given the 2014 IWF Leading Light Award for her decades of advocacy work, particularly her accomplishments on behalf of the mentally ill.

“We’ve been trying to overcome the stigma,” Carter said. “The brain is just like any other organ in the body. We can treat it. We still have a long way to go.”

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Rosalynn Carter was saluted for her many years of work on behalf of the mentally ill. Photo: Jennifer Brett

She saluted progress made in the arena of mental health, noting that people who might have faced institutionalization in decades past are now able to lead productive and meaningful lives in the community. But the struggle is not over, she said.

“We still have so much work to do,” Carter said. “Too many people who have mental health issues won’t go for help.”

Other International Hall of Fame honorees included Olga Maria del Carmen Sanchez Cordero, the ninth woman to hold a seat on the Supreme Court in Mexico and named by Forbes magazine as one of the 50 most powerful women in Mexico; and Ireland’s Maureen Harding Clark, who served as a judge on the United Nationals War Crimes Tribunal and was one of 18 judges from around the world nominated to the International Criminal Court.

Also recognized at the event were the 2014 Women Who Make A Difference honorees. They included Jan Blomstrann, chairwoman and CEO of Renewable NRG Systems and a member of IWF Vermont; Ophelia Cheung, founding executive director of the Consumer Council (IWF Hong Kong); Linda Davis, chair of the board at CS Ranch (IWF New Mexico); Ann Drake, chairman and CEO of DSC Logistics (IWF Chicago and IWF Florida); Heidi Kuhn, founder and CEO of Roots of Peace (IWF Northern California); Chua Sock Koong, group CEO of Singapore Telecommunications Limited (IWF Singapore); Zanele Mbeki, founder and patron of the Women’s Development Banking Trust and former First Lady of South Africa (IWF South Africa); Teresa Valdes-Fauli Weintraub, president and CEO of Fiduciary Trust International of the South (IWF Florida); and Carol B. Tomé, chief financial officer and vice president of corporate services of The Home Depot (IWF Georgia).

The evening featured performances by the Billy Batts Jazz Quartet, the Georgia State University Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rolando Salazar (principal artists Megan Mashburn, soprano; Jessica Luffey, mezzo soprano; Richard Clement, tenor; Nicholas Yaquinto, baritone and Wade Thomas, bass); Taylor Fuentes and “The Mariachi Amigoz,” who performed in honor of Justice Olga Maria del Carmen Sanchez Cordero; and Irish Tenor Ronan Tynan with accompanist William Lewis.

Here’s a video clip of Tynan and Lewis, who performed in honor of Judge Maureen Harding Clark.