Beyond the headlines
A cursory glance at any daily newspaper shows us what the mass media thinks is important. What we won’t find are reports on the people who are forming the debate and creating change, long before it is recognized by the press. Our students are doing that work.
Yesenia Barragan was a high school activist who co-founded a group that participated in anti-war demonstrations, held workshops on sweatshops, and organized cultural events. Now an undergraduate at Brown, Senia campaigns for a living wage and immigrant rights and is among the founders of a chapter of the new SDS.
Nathalie Contreras spent time in foster care and found her way to the progressive movement while organizing against police abuse as a teenager. That led her to examine the economic situation in her community and to become a union organizer. This spring she will complete her undergraduate degree at UCLA.
Refat Doza joined Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) after 9/11. She became an organizer, creating programs and facilitating workshops, and coordinated a research project on the racism and intimidation faced by more than 650 South Asian students in New York. Shoshi will receive her undergraduate degree from CUNY, Queens, this year.
Monica Enriquez, working on a masters in digital arts, won asylum in a case which recognized the dangers she would face as a lesbian if she was returned to her native Colombia. She works in a large and vibrant community of queer immigrants, bringing together film, grassroots organizing, teaching, and gender/sexual/immigration politics.
Erin Genia, the mother of three, is from the Lake Traverse reservation in South Dakota and is finishing her undergraduate degree in Native American history and culture at Evergreen State. She has worked for human rights and corporate accountability and, as an political artist, is organizing in opposition to the Iraq war.
Anne Braden Award recipient Michael Ide. This year the Fund created the Anne Braden Award. Anne was a Trustee of the Fund for many years and in her honor, we agreed to recognize an undergraduate who reflects her commitment to organizing in the South, demonstrates her courage and integrity in the face of adversity, and possesses her no-nonsense, grassroots, working class orientation — along with her recognition of the centrality of race in every facet of movement work. The selection was not difficult. Michael Ide entered the University of Southern Mississippi and immediately organized a gay-straight alliance. His interests have led him to Jamaica, where he met with communities displaced by development, and then to Wales to study radical economics. He worked as a coordinator for the Center for Human Rights and Liberties and met the Immokalee Workers at a conference of southern organizers, which led him to work with the Student/Farmworker Alliance in Mississippi. Michael served as the queer caucus representative on the national United Students Against Sweatshops board from 2006-07 and went home to New Orleans after Katrina to join the Common Ground Collective. Last summer he was selected to participate in the Equality Ride to challenge religious intolerance on college campuses across the South and was arrested for civil disobedience. Michael is currently sharpening his Spanish language skills and deepening his understanding of international solidarity at the University of the Yucatán. He will return to Hattiesburg to finish his degree in the spring. It is hard to imagine a student activist who is better qualified for the Anne Braden Award — Michael is on the path Anne helped shape for more than 50 years.
Roseli Ilano, an undergraduate at San Francisco State, is active in the movement for Philippine and Asian Pacific Island justice. She studied geography to learn about the impact of mining and dams on indigenous communities and is now enrolled in a creative writing program, tying cultural work to community building.
Tiffany King organized a community education collective of Black women and is now a doctoral student at the University of Toronto. A contributor to The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, she also added her voice to the recently released Warfare in the American Heartland.
Adele Kubein continues to work with Military Families Speak Out while enrolled in a masters program in anthropology at Oregon State University. She has traveled widely, speaking and demonstrating for peace and lobbying for medical care for returning vets, including her daughter who was severely wounded in Iraq.
Alexandra Leader is a long time feminist and union organizer who has entered the pharmacy program at the University of Florida. Her commitment to single-payer health care and reproductive freedom led her to graduate school to gain new skills that will advance the progressive movement.
David Mathis became an activist in a Virginia prison, where he completed a paralegal program and worked with inmates as a tutor and instructor. He produces a quarterly newsletter for prisoners and is pursuing his undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary studies from Adams State College.
Tameika McHarris began organizing against police abuse when she entered Rutgers. She has presented workshops for the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and went to New Orleans after Katrina, working with Critical Resistance and Common Ground. She attended the World Social Forum in Kenya and will finish her undergraduate degree this year.
Fernando Mejia came to the US five years ago and joined the struggle for immigrants rights while in high school. Now an undergraduate at Boise State University, he is active in the Latino and progressive student organizations, advocating for a state DREAM Act and teaching citizenship to farmworkers.
Jason Pramas has been a journalist, active in the peace and economic justice movements, and co-chaired the 2004 Boston Social Forum. He has returned to school as a public policy doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and co-chairs the graduate student union on campus.
Tasha Prosper, a New Orleans native, spent two years advocating for Katrina relief. Now living in Harlem, she organizes for environmental justice and political prisoners while hosting a monthly show on education on WBAI radio. A campus activist, she is working on a doctoral degree in counseling at Teachers College, Columbia.
O’Connor Scholar Palak Shah. Jessie Lloyd O’Connor, a labor journalist and organizer, was an early member of the Fund’s Board of Trustees. She left a bequest to the Fund which we use annually to honor a student who represents Jessie’s interests in the progressive movement.
This year we selected Palak Shah as our O’Connor Scholar. Palak uses her skills to analyze how to build the broadest possible anti-racist, anti-imperialist and anti-sexist movement. Her talents led to her work as an editor and researcher at Political Research Associates, where she wrote Defending Justice, an activist resource kit, and where she is currently a co-editor of Making History in Real Time. She was a fellow at the National School for Strategic Organizing and entered Harvard’s public policy program at the Kennedy School this fall. Palak’s ability to unite theory and practice reflects Jessie’s life-long commitment to social change and the kind of journalism Jessie used to build community.
Tamara Spira, a long-time organizer for prison abolition and against the war, is also building a coalition of wide-ranging local community organizations. She led a successful effort to give priority to social justice research at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she is working on her doctorate.
Eric Stanley, once a homeless teenager, found ACT UP and a radical analysis of power. He is now a doctoral student who is organizing against the prison industrial complex, co-editing a book on the brutality faced by queer prisoners, and has completed the film, Homotopia, a satirical critique of assimilation.
Regina Velasco, an activist at the University of Texas, helped establish a Women’s Resource Center despite fierce opposition. After serving as national coordinator of the Student Peace Action Network, she entered graduate school and now organizes against imperialism and state violence in the Filipino community.
Lila Zucker, an economic justice volunteer from Portland, is in her second year at the University of Washington, Seattle, where she chaired the Student Labor Action Project and worked with Jobs with Justice. She is now forming a group of radical cheerleaders and an anti-war street theater project.