Award-winning author and journalist Mark Arax, a Fresno State alumnus, will be the guest speaker for the University’s commemoration of Human Rights Day from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, in the North Gym (Room 118).

The theme is “Climate Change: People, Planet and the Valley.” Arax speaks at 11 a.m. as part of the Leon S. Peters Ethics Lecture Series.

The event will also feature panel discussions and workshops on climate change and water issues in the central valley, including impacts on local industries, people, and ecosystems.

Human Rights Day, observed worldwide every year on Dec. 10, commemorates the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

Arax, a Fresno native and former Fresno State professor whose grandfather emigrated from Armenia to Fresno and settled on a raisin vineyard, was a prolific writer for the Los Angeles Times. He covered various topics from the California prison system to the water crisis in the Central Valley.

He is the author of “In My Father’s Name,” a memoir published in 1997 about Arax’s father, Ara, who was gunned down by two strangers in his Fresno nightclub in 1972.

His 2005 book, “The King of California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of A Secret American Empire,” co-authored by Rick Wartzman, won a 2004 California Book Award and the 2005 William Saroyan International Writing Prize.

The book is an account of how a Georgia slave-owning family migrated to California in the early 1920s, drained one of America ‘s biggest lakes and carved out the richest cotton empire in the world. It has been described as a great exploration of the business of factory farming, detailing the racism and poverty experienced by black and Mexican workers.

In 2009, Arax also published “West of the West: Dreamers, Believers, Builders and Killers in the Golden State,” an account of four years travelling California to explore its place in the world.

This year’s Human Rights Day is the launch of a year-long campaign recognizing the 50th anniversary of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The campaign is centered on the theme “Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always.”

The on-campus observance is co-sponsored by the Human Rights Coalition of the Central Valley and the Fresno State Ethics Center.

Guests are invited to a light breakfast and performance by vocal group “The Raging Grannies” at 8:45 a.m.

The event is free and open to the public. Parking is free on weekends (Lot P24 is nearest).

For more information, contact Dr. Su Kapoor, professor of philosophy, at 559.435.2212 or

(University Communications news assistant Erika Denise Castañon contributed to this report).

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