NEW YORK — The Artists Network of Refuse and Resist honored 15 “unconventional heroes” here Aug. 26, on the eve of the Republican National Convention. Actress Blair Brown emceed the program, which took place at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.

Songwriter and singer Steve Earle sang “Rich Man’s War” from his new CD “The Revolution Starts Now” and gave Bill Nevins, a teacher from Rancho Rio High School in New Mexico, an award for defending the artistic rights of his students and their Write Club/Poetry Team.

Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old Jewish woman, was crushed to death by a bulldozer while she was trying to prevent the destruction by the Israeli government of Palestinians’ homes. Her parents accepted the award on her behalf.

Aaron Lebowitz, a high school student, received his award for opposing attempts to bring “creationism” into his high school curriculum in Darby, Mont.

Camilo Mejia, an enlisted soldier who sought and was refused conscientious objector status upon returning from Iraq – and who has since been court-martialed and imprisoned for his act— received his award through his mother, her sister and his grandmother.

Toni Smith, captain of her Manhattanville College basketball team, turned her back on the flag at the beginning of each game to protest the Iraq war. Smith thanked her family for giving her the perspective to understand that the Iraq war was no good.

Michael Berg, the father of the Nick Berg, murdered in Iraq, gave an inspiring call to protest Bush administration policies. Librarians from Santa Cruz, Calif., and Dave Meserve of Arcata, Calif. received awards for opposing the U.S. Patriot Act.

Aaron McGruder, the creator of “The Boondocks” comic strip, which pillories all manner of injustices each day in 300 newspapers nationwide, was also saluted, as were the seven other champions for peace and democratic rights.

The program concluded with a performance by the folksinger, Odetta.

Sponsors of the event included Artists Against the War, Bread and Roses 1199/SEIU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Citizen Soldier, National Lawyers Guild/NYC Chapter, Initiators of the Not in Our Name Statement of Conscience, and The Nation magazine.