International Advisory Board Member Mai Khoi honored with Four Freedoms Award

The Roosevelt Foundation honored Vietnamese singer/dissident Mai Khoi, a member of the International Free Expression Project’s International Advisory Board, with the prestigious Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award for Freedom of Speech. Previous Four Freedoms laureates include John F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela and Angela Merkel.

Mai Khoi was presented with a Franklin D. Roosevelt medallion April 21 at a ceremony in Middelburg, Netherlands, attended by the Dutch King, Queen and Prime Minister. Her honor was celebrated in Pittsburgh, where she is living in exile as a City of Asylum artist-in-residence, at the world premiere of her theatrical production “Bad Activist: the Stage Show” this fall. Her performance at Pittsburgh Playhouse is being produced by IFEP and Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation on Sept. 15, 7 p.m. Join our mailing list and you'll be notified when tickets go on sale.

The Four Freedoms Awards are presented each year to persons whose achievements have demonstrated a commitment to the principles that President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed in his historic Four Freedoms speech to Congress in 1941 as essential to democracy: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear.

In announcing Mai Khoi’s award, the Roosevelt Foundation said, “Through her music and other art forms, Mai Khoi brings to the forefront the importance of freedom of expression, social justice and improving the human rights situation in Vietnam. In her life and work, she emphasizes the right of everyone to make their own choices.”

A few years ago, Mai Khoi was a huge pop star in Vietnam, playing arena concerts and being widely compared to Lady Gaga. She lived a glamorous, celebrated life. But she began to chafe under government censorship and turned her celebrity to the cause of democracy and free expression. Soon she was living the life of a dissident. She was surveilled, harassed, detained and interrogated. Her friends were questioned by the authorities. She was evicted from her home and chased into hiding by the police, eventually finding her way to Pittsburgh.

"We're thrilled to learn that Mai Khoi's exceptional courage, activism and artistry have been recognized by the Roosevelt Foundation with its highly prized Four Freedoms Award for Freedom of Speech," said Greg Victor, IFEP founder & CEO. "She stands in extraordinary company with previous Four Freedoms laureates — and rightly so."

Mai Khoi’s heroic contributions to human rights were also recognized in 2018 when she was awarded the Vaclav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent. Last year, she was honored by IFEX, the global network of free-expression organizations, when she was inducted into its “Faces of Free Expression” gallery of free-expression champions.

Mai Khoi's Schedule of Four Freedoms Events

  • April 20, 2022: Dinner to welcome the 2022 Roosevelt Four Freedoms Awards Laureates

  • April 21, 2022: Four Freedoms Award Ceremony; Four Freedoms Meetup and Reception; and "Movies that Matter" showing at the Middelburg cinema

  • April 22, 2022: Middelburg Youth Symposium and Open Mic Night, beginning with a short extract of Mai Khoi's "Bad Activist: the Stage Show."

To learn about Mai Khoi and the Four Freedoms Award events, follow IFEP on Instagram and look at our posts and story highlights about the week. We were able to live-stream snippets of Mai Khoi's "Bad Activist" performance!

The International Free Expression Project is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to build a world in which everyone can be who they are, say what they want, and be heard. Its projects include building a "Marketplace for Ideas" in the former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette pressroom and erecting a signature work of public art symbolizing free expression.