2017/18 Jessie Lloyd O’Connor Scholar – Hana Georg
Each year the Fund selects a grantee who honors the legacy of commitment to peace and justice modeled by Jessie Lloyd O’Connor, a labor journalist, organizer and an early and beloved member of our Board, who with her husband Harvey, opened heart and home to activists seeking respite. Our Jessie Lloyd O’Connor Scholar this year is Hana Georg. Hana has been an organizer since 2001 as a high school student working to improve the public school system in LA with the Coalition for Educational Justice. This is where they deepened political consciousness. At 16 they moved to Brooklyn and became involved with the LGBTQ Center and FIERCE, the queer youth organization and joined Rise-Up Radio, a youth led collective at WBAI. At People’s Production House, Hana produced documentaries on Prison Moratorium Project and Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM). They returned to CA to UC Santa Cruz for Feminist Studies and became involved with Students Against War and Student-Worker Solidarity Collective and then worked as a carpenter in Oakland while working with Out Loud Radio, training queer youth in radio. They were involved with Critical Resistance there as well. Now back in Brooklyn, they joined the electrician’s union and worked with labor and immigrant worker movements. In the union they fought for mandatory anti-violence and consciousness raising work with working class people, co-founding an artist/activist collective, Worker’s Art Coalition, specifically to engage working-class people in dialogue around race, gender and immigration. They continue to collaborate with Audre Lorde Project and Sylvia Rivera Law Project and most recently has been involved with Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ) in base-building campaigns to raise political awareness, as well as direct-action organizing in support of POC-led movements. Their long-term goals are rooted in anti-racist movement building and gender justice organizing, pursuing a landscape architecture degree, “because this unique field will enable my work on physical landscape to extend into political landscape, designing with the specific intent to address injustice, and to take on the impactful role of urban planning with an awareness of social-historical context and histories of displacement”. Hana will begin a Masters in Landscape Architecture/Urban design at City College of New York.
The Marilyn Buck Award – Oloth Insyxiengmay
Marilyn Buck was a political prisoner and poet who worked in solidarity with Black Liberation struggles to end white supremacy. She received grants from the Fund in 2003 and 2004, and died of a rare cancer in 2010. Marilyn supported the Fund with regular donations and supportive notes from her jail cell, and with a generous bequest following her death. To honor her memory and legacy, The Marilyn Buck Award is given to an incarcerated or formerly incarcerated activist working for justice. This year, the award is given to Oloth Insyxiengmay. Oloth found acceptance in a gang at the tender age of 11 and by 15, was given a 74 year prison sentence for crimes committed with this gang. Although unfortunate, during his incarceration Oloth has taken the lessons of solidarity, community, and survival learned from the gang, to turn the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Awareness Group (APICAG) at Clallam Bay Corrections Center, into a liberating space working to raise social awareness around matters related to imperialism, white supremacy, racism, sexism, poverty and the prison industrial complex. In solidarity with other organizations like the Black Prisoners Caucus (BPC) on the inside and FIGHT and PARISOL on the outside, the APICAG organized discussion groups and workshops on such issues as: youth advocacy, alternatives to violence, community restoration, transformative justice, parole legislation, race relations and gender equity. The group’s strength and outreach is apparent in its participation in the May Day rally of Seattle in support of immigration reform. There are now other APICAGs established at several other prisons in Washington State. Oloth says of his work, “By educating our communities about their positionality in society and the systems of their suffering, we helped transform and politicize our peers into agents for social change.” He persistently advocates for educational opportunities for incarcerated individuals because of his belief that everyone should have equal access to the liberating power of higher education. With the BPC and participating colleges, Oloth helped create an education program that provides free college courses to prisoners called TEACH. He is currently studying towards an AA degree at Seattle Central Community College and will continue at University of Washington to pursue a BA in sociology. Oloth is plans to work to help find alternatives to gangs, drugs, and violence for API youth.
The Anne Braden Award was created to honor this long-time civil rights activist and Davis-Putter Trustee. The award recognizes an undergraduate working in the South, keeping racism central to all aspects of their movement work. This year’s recipient isJohana DeLeon, who first became an activist because she was undocumented. She joined the San Antonio Immigrant Youth Movement, coming out of the shadows, fighting for in-state tuition and educating the San Antonio community about DACA, higher education and their rights. In 2014, she joined Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES ) supporting mothers at the Karnes Detention Center. Knowing that many of the women were from countries where going back would likely mean death, the work was challenging, but she worked alongside some of the mothers to launch public campaigns to fight their deportations and expose the injustices of the Karnes detention facility. As the campaign continued, more and more women were being taken off of the deportation list and given opportunities to fight their cases. In 2015 they launched a hunger strike to protest the conditions and Johana was a key person in helping get their stories out to the media and ultimately helping to make many changes at the center. She began working with Familias Liberades De Detencion, which was founded by previously detained families. Her goal is to continue organizing families who have gone through detention and form support groups for them to become advocates for themselves and against detention. She will seek a Bachelor’s of Social Work Degree.
Noor Aljawad began self-education and activism as an Iraqi American, following 9/11 and the US invasion of Iraq. She became involved with El Centro Cultural de Mexico and Un Mundo en Resistencia, volunteering for Copwatch, planning fundraisers and participating in movement education workshops. She attended a Labor Conference in 2008 and learned about the Cuban Five (Cuban political prisoners) and other issues experienced by countries challenging US political and economic dominance. At UCSB, volunteered at the rape crisis center and organized with Students for Justice in Palestine. She spent 2011-2012 in Egypt and upon return she says she was impacted deeply having witnessed the subversion of an awe-inspiring revolution. She works for the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), the only group in Iraq to shelter women from various threats of violence. Once she obtains her social work degree, she plans to work to strengthen OWFI’s psychosocial support program. She is a member and researcher for the Iraqi Oral History Project (IOHP), documenting, preserving, and archiving stories of the Iraqi diaspora and is seeking an MSW at UC Berkeley.
Sarah Biscarra Dilley is an artist and scholar currently residing in the un-ceded homeland of the Chochenyo (Ohlone) people. Her interdisciplinary process explores the spaces of creative expression, collaboration across experiences, community-oriented research, self-determination, and the unquiet nature of the land(s) of California Native peoples, particularly the connections between contemporary recognition issues, absence of treaties, and its connection to the petroleum industry. Being raised in Chumash, Chicano, and queer family traditions, between urban and rural environments, directly informs her focus, using found footage, cut paper, archival material, handwork, language and thread to trace landscapes of resilience and shifting relationships of belonging, displacement, and home. She is a member of Black Salt Collective, whose body of collaborative work expresses experiential, non-linear identities as Black, Brown and Indigenous artists. Her academic and visual work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. While much of her foundations are shaped by body, land and the worlds in and around us, she began her undergraduate studies at the Institute of American Indian Arts (Santa Fe, NM), has a BA in Urban Studies from the San Francisco Art Institute and is currently pursuing a PhD in Native American Studies at University of California, Davis.
Johnny Buck is from the Wanapum community and an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation. He is physically, spiritually and emotionally connected to his homeland in Washington State and is deeply intertwined with the environment, culture, language and tradition of his community. His work is focused on decolonialization, encompassing healthy food and eco systems as well as strengthening communities, cross cultural and intertribal relationships striving for social equity. He has been the Northwest representative for the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, building collective voice of tribal college students and a leader in the Young People For program. Johnny co-founded the Native Youth Leadership Alliance to develop community led organizations addressing unique issues of Native American Communities and is working to expand the vision and scope of the youth committee. He joined the board of the Social Justice Fund Northwest and provided solidarity, leadership and material aid to young activists joining the frontlines at Standing Rock. His research focuses on developing an Indigenous phenology observation network. He is enrolled at Northwest Indian College, pursuing a BS in Native Environmental Science and hopes to begin Ph.D. Environmental Engineering and Juris Doctor in Environmental Law program next year.
Robert Chan marks the election as president of the Men’s Advisory Council at the prison the start of his activism. He organized the group for letter writing campaigns for restorative and rehabilitative programs at the prison. He created a program for prisoners to share text books that also brought them together across lines of race. In 2009 he co-founded The Other Death Penalty project (which has become an official 501(c)3) to educate about how life without parole is a slow death penalty. With the group, he has published an anthology, “Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough” using these stories of prisoners to impact decision-makers and legislators, especially with the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. He also worked to help pass 2 different CA Bills impacting incarceration of young people. In 2015, he launched grassroots efforts to challenge the monopoly of the JPay company as the only for-a-fee communication system in the CA DOC and to end strip searches of folks visiting CA prisons. Both campaigns were successful. He has worked closely with Critical Resistance and believes that incarcerated people should be fully involved in their own struggles. Robert says, “Whether it’s living conditions, immigration, education, sentence reform, or legislation, it’s all part of the larger fight to dismantle the prison industrial complex and bring social change.” He is pursuing an MA in Humanities at Adams State University
Leticia Cortes grew up in an activist family, marching with her father, on May Day with Voces de Frontera and always knew she would be a leader working for justice. In HS she joined the Violence Prevention Initiative’s Youth Leadership Council with one of their projects, Ripple Effect Milwaukee addressing severe segregation. The group planned an arts and activism retreat, where young people from all parts of the community discussed issues like violence and the change they wanted to see in their communities. She led parts of the retreat as a peer leader with 40 other young people, telling their stories and making plans for action. Noting that permission that has been granted from the new administration for blatant racism and bigotry, she believes consciousness raising with white people (those who hold the power) must take place. She wants to be an educator that empowers youth of color to understand their value and voice to become powerful, self-directed leaders of the future. She will seek a BA in Early Childhood Education/Educational Policy at Columbia College, Chicago.
As a Navajo woman, Janelle Cronin was called to be with her people, the Standing Rock Sioux in opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). She was able to go 3 times to North Dakota to stand with the water protectors and returned to Indiana speaking out at events on Purdue’s campus to share her story, their story with campus and community members. As the Native American Student Association (NASA) President, Office of Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (OIGP) Representative and Purdue Social Justice Coalition member she worked to spread awareness through presentations such as the Purdue Civic Engagement & Leadership Development: Pecha Kusha Event Mni Wiconi: Water is Life, the Native American Educational and Cultural Center (NAECC) and Purdue Social Justice Coalition Seminar Stand with Standing Rock, and #NoDAPL: Earth Guardianship and the Environment panel discussion. In her master’s research, she is studying the transition of tribal college and university students to primarily white institutions and the implications of incorporating their cultural identity within their research. She wants to earn a PhD, working for Indian Country as a recruiter (for both college and graduate school) and as a future educator and a mentor teach Native students that the finish line is not a bachelor’s degree; that post-secondary degrees are greatly needed to improve and strengthen tribal communities. She is working toward an MS in Ecological Science and Engineering at Purdue University.
Joe Dole focuses on litigation in the areas of criminal law, prisoners’ rights, and freedom of information. He has authored two books and numerous essays and articles about the stigmatization of incarcerated people and the politics of mass incarceration. He has won several prestigious national awards for his writing. He also has written proposals for legislation regarding the use of funds in corrections and for fair sentencing and fair legal proceedings. If he regains his freedom, he would like to be a community organizer, work on legislation, and work for the election of progressive candidates. He plans to take courses from Ohio University that will prepare him for work in the legal fields and carceral studies.
Patricia Frazier was inspired by “A Raisin in the Sun” to follow her dream of being an artist. Because of budget issues, her advanced art class was cancelled, so the class organized a protest. The principal said it wasn’t their fight, but fight they did and the art class is still offered. Realizing how important organizing is, she joined Assata’s Daughters, a grassroots intergenerational collective of radical Black women who work to escalate, deepen, and sustain the Black Lives Matter movement. For the past two years, she has been a part of the #ByeAnita Campaign, which got Anita Alvarez, former state’s attorney out of office for her mishandling of the Laquan McDonald case (police violence case) and is currently working on a campaign to rename Washington Park after Ronald Johnson, a man who was unjustly shot and killed by police in 2014. To create a more just world she will be studying film, writing and community organization and advocacy in order to highlight the problems people in impoverished neighborhoods face and mentor young artists to do the same. She will begin a BA in Film and Creative Writing in the fall at Columbia College in Chicago.
Amanda Jimenez became involved a year ago with Anakbayan-New York, a Filipino liberation youth and student organization. As Deputy Education Officer, they develop curricula, facilitate workshops, and promote proletarian internationalism. They work to empower Filipino youth through historical education, to analyze conditions locally, nationally, and globally, and to combat the oppressive educational institutions. With ABNY, they are part of the Coalition to Defend Little Manila, combating gentrification measures in a predominantly immigrant, working-class Filipino neighborhood. They take part in alliance work by connecting issues in the Philippines to NYC, Palestine, Venezuela, and other solidarity movements. Ultimately, Amanda wants to be a civil rights lawyer and a people’s educator. They will complete a BA at CUNY, City College in International Studies/Asian Studies next year.
Kentaro Kaneko has worked with the peer-run sex worker clinic at St. James Infirmary, having gone there as a client in 2008. He became a facilitator in the TradeOFF male identified sex-worker group, providing training and social support and then a harm reduction counselor trained in HIV/STI testing. Dealing with his own diagnosis since 2004, he and a friend decided to revive the then defunct ACT-UP San Francisco. He says, “In my mind we need to go beyond the capacity of an NGO to combat institutionalized racism, health care disparities, trans and homophobia, the prison industrial complex or pharmaceutical pricing since these organizations depended upon these same institutional structures for their funding.” They marched to commemorate the 25th anniversary of ACT/UP, held die-ins, staged an impromptu stage performance to protest the high cost of the newest HIV antiretroviral. They interrupted the opening plenary of the International AIDS Conference in DC. Kentaro has been involved in anti-displacement activism in the Mission District. He began working with Critical Resistance (CR), translating and editing their publication, The Abolitionist. With CR they participated in rallies for the prison hunger strikers who have been advocating for the end of solitary confinement practices and unjust labor practices. He has decided to go into public health primary care to provide the kind of health care that marginalized communities deserve but which is oftentimes inaccessible and is beginning a Master’s Nurse Practitioner program at UC San Francisco.
Karen Louviere – Her commitment to activism began at 18 when she joined the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective (RDAC-BX), a collective of artists, organizers and educators who build community through the arts. They use hip hop as a tool of resistance giving voice to marginalized Black and Brown working class communities and provide a Books and Breakfast with political education, food and books in the style of the Black Panther Party. They also sponsor Boogie Mics, a platform for artists and a way to organize. She organized and protested around the death of Ramarley Graham, who was killed by police in 2012 and has been a part of coalitions and marches with organizations like, Mothers on the Move, the People Power Movement, Party for Socialism and Liberation and Da Urban Butterflies. She chaired the Students of the African Diaspora at The New School and worked on a tenants’ rights campaign. She says an MSW Community Organizing Method Degree will help her transform and represent marginalized communities. Her goal is to provide healing spaces for families of victims of police brutality. Her focus as a Liberation Health Social Worker, will help deepen her commitment to always learning and organizing around how all issues connect to capitalism. She worked at BronxPOWER in the summer 2017 as a parent organizer and will transition to a social work intern during the 2017-2018 school year organizing youth, while completing an MSW at Hunter College.
Robin Castel Navarro was diagnosed with Mixed Connective Tissue Disease at the age of ten and struggled to find her voice as a disabled young person of color. She found inspiration and strength in activism and community organizing around social justice issues in the Filipino community along with other working class communities of color in New York and the San Francisco Bay Area. For the past 10 years, she has been focusing on domestic workers’ issues, immigrant policies, housing rights and women’s issues. She and other Filipina women founded Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FIRE) now Gabriela New York, connecting the struggles faced by the Filipino/a diaspora in the U.S. to the issues in the Philippines such as colonization, imperialism and militarization. She continues to advocate and build with immigrant families, youth and indigenous people through organizations like the Filipino Community Center (FCC), National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) and Salupongan International. Today, she is a lead coordinator of Salupongan International which focuses on serving Lumad (indigenous) and Moro (Muslim) communities’ right to self-determination and defense of ancestral lands in Mindanao, southern Philippines. Her family’s roots are in Mindanao and bridging her social justice work from the U.S. to her motherland to other international struggles has inspired her in serving the people. She is also currently pursuing her Masters of Social Work at CSU East Bay with the goal to utilize her higher education and bring it back to the communities she serves.
Christina Nesheiwat is currently completing her Masters in Social Work at Tulane, where she is a core organizer with the Diversity Coalition in their efforts to create institutional pathways for Louisiana students of color in the School of Social Work. Christina also co-produces weekly social justice radio segments for 91.5 FM’s community news show. Her past media work includes transcribing and supporting Prison Radio and Voices of the Middle East and North Africa. In New Orleans, Christina facilitates violence intervention circles for men and is an active member of the People’s Assembly. The People’s Assembly works to bring residents of Orleans Parish together to hold the city’s budget and legislation accountable to the working class people of New Orleans. Prior to her master’s, Christina was a case manager at the Arab Cultural and Community Center, in San Francisco. There she launched an intimate partner anti-violence training series for immigrant and refugee families that provided alternatives to engagement with law enforcement. During this time she was a member of Coalition for a Safe San Francisco that combatted surveillance and discrimination of Muslim, Arab, South Asian and African communities. She is also the co-founder of SWANAconnect, which trains South West Asian and North African volunteers in the framework of solidarity to support refugee communities in Greece. SWANAconnect, partners with other transnational organizations that organize against imperialism abroad and racism domestically. Christina first began organizing as an undergraduate, working with other first generation, low-income college students to mentor and create access to higher education for high school students in Oakland and Los Angeles. As a radical social worker, Christina seeks to do work that recognizes the worth of oppressed communities while creating parallel systems of care for one another.
Jasson Perez – His past work includes organizing campaigns to stop zero tolerance policies, militarization in the schools and gentrification. He was a union organizer with SEIU Local 73 working to keep schools open and to end corporate tax subsidies. He was a co-chair of the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), “creating justice and freedom for all Black people within a feminist queer praxis”, organizing both locally and nationally. His goal is to be an activist/ scholar, building a movement for social, political and economic liberation. He will be focusing his activism on scholar/activist work with the UIC Social Justice Initiative to allow for his availability to his daughter during a difficult time. This past year, he has had to reprioritize his life and his work to be more available for his daughter, who is a teenager and now beginning her own political journey. He has moved away from direct actions and base building towards political education work for Assata’s Daughters, policy advocacy around universal basic income and a scholarly focus on economics and Abolition Socialism. He is seeking a BA in Economics and Black Studies at the University of Illinois Chicago.
Elizabeth Perkins -Her activism has been centered on reproductive justice, queer rights, and economic justice. She works with the Kentucky Health Justice Network (KHJN), providing interpretation services and transportation to clients who need rides to and from the only abortion clinic in the state, and participates in practical support leadership groups focused on improving abortion access in KY. Previously working at Planned Parenthood in Kentucky, providing direct services as well as holistic sexuality education, she now helps run KHJN’s hotline, connecting clients to funding and services related to abortion. She worked with Witness for Peace in Central America for two years accompanying Honduran and Nicaraguan activists who fight to be free of oppressive poverty and racist U.S. policies, educating folks in the U.S. through blogs, delegations, urgent actions, and speaking tours. Elizabeth continues to support the annual Witness for Peace Southeast speaker’s tour in Kentucky. She says, “Race is used to divide people among themselves to prevent them from rising collectively against the wealthy minority. Movements must be intersectional. As activists, we can’t look at one issue as separate from any other. As Lilla Watson said, our freedom is bound up together.” She’s seeking a dual MSSW/MA in Women and Gender Studies at the University of Louisville.
Loubna Qutami is a Ph.D candidate in the department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Riverside. She has completed a Masters of Arts degree in the College of Ethnic Studies: Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative at San Francisco State University completing a thesis titled Transnational Belonging: Palestinian Youth Searching for Home. Qutami’s research background is largely informed by her grassroots community organizing history and she particularly focuses on student and youth movements undertaking the intersections of political theory and practice. As an undergraduate student, Loubna was a student leader of the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS) and part of the team that fought to inaugurate the Palestinian Cultural Mural honoring Edward Said on SF State’s Cesar Chavez Student Center. The mural is the first and only of its kind on any public institution in the US. Loubna is most known for being a founder, member, and central organizer in the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), a transnational body of young Palestinians who have come together to re-vitalize a grassroots movement for the liberation of and return to their homeland. Loubna served as the movement’s international general coordinator from 2011-2014. In addition to her work with the PYM, Loubna served as the Executive Director of the Arab Cultural and Community Center (ACCC) of San Francisco where she spent five years prior working in various programs including youth empowerment, violence prevention, women’s programming, social services, cultural programs as well as racial equity and civic engagement campaigns. Loubna has worked with an array of coalitions and campaigns that build inter-generational and cross-movement alliances including serving as the coordinator for the Bay Area Campaign to Stop Urban Shield in 2015. She is also a member of the Anti-Oppression Committee for UAW 2865, the first labor union in the US to vote, by popular majority, to boycott and divest from companies profiting from Israeli colonization of Palestine.
Jensine Raihan became involved in movement work as a freshman in high school. She was angry at the change in her life after her father abandoned the family and went from privileged to poor and homeless. Angry at the disparities she was experiencing because of race, gender and economic status. She got involved with in DRUM – Desis Rising Up and Moving, with their educational and racial justice work, speaking out against Israeli’s apartheid, the U.S.’s war on working-class people with mass surveillance programs, broken window policies, and police brutality, and joined the task force on behalf of DRUM to implement restorative justice policies in NYC schools. She joined the Teen Activist Project at the NYCLU advocating for bills that would protect trans people from discrimination and for the implementation of comprehensive sexual education in schools. She developed a gender justice program at DRUM, Eckshate–dedicated to tackling issues faced by working-class Desi women. She became involved with Queens Cop Watch. Studied in Ecuador with indigenous FICI organization. Anger brought her to the movement, but she says love and passion keeps her there. She is beginning a BS in Computer Science at NYU.
Luke Risher was raised in Philadelphia’s Germantown by activist parents, where he was often in the racial minority, gave him a different experience than many young white men. His main work has been with Philadelphia Student Union and UrbEd around saving public education, challenging over-policing, under-funding in Philly schools, which he sees as core work for racial and economic justice. He has also been involved with arts collectives. He sees himself as a leader in the community in which he was raised, sharing leadership, centering voices of oppressed groups, being aware of how much space he takes up and using any power he does have to create space when needed. He will be attending Howard University to study Community Development, Human Development, Art and Education.
Amir Sharif – Amir’s activism is a direct result of coming from a region in the middle of Ethiopia called Oromia, where decades of land disputes and ethnic cleansing has left his people disenfranchised under a U.S backed institutionalized one-party government. He mobilizes, educates and organizes around liberation for his people as much as he can, but his focus is on intersectional organizing in Minneapolis and ending the school to prison pipeline through removing police from schools in any and every capacity. He and a group of classmates started a group called Educate Ya’ Self a youth-led organization that aims to fight against systemic racial oppression and white supremacy, learning to take direct action towards social, economic, and environmental issues such as ending the era of mass incarceration, LGBTQ and women’s issues, dealing with anti-Blackness. He is part of YUIR, a multiracial, intergenerational community organizing group that offers Freedom Schools. He says those two groups have had a great deal of impact on his life and his understanding of the systems around him. He is also involved with BLM Minneapolis and BLP (Black Liberation Project) started by a group of Black femme and non-binary youth focused on grassroots organizing and youth education. He is beginning a BA in Political Science at The New School.
Christian Snow is from Chicago, and is currently a third-year student and Public Interest Scholar at Northeastern University School of Law. She worked with Street Level Youth Media assisting underprivileged Black and Brown youth with the social justice content, engaging Black and Brown young women with exploring their “space” in the media arts, and empowering youth to hold the organizations who seek to serve them accountable. In 2015, she planned and coordinated the youth media arm of the NexGeneration IL campaign, with the goal of using the media interest of the youth she worked with to help them make connections between how various policy and power issue areas like housing, employment, and police interaction affected their day-to-day lives. Christian joined Assata’s Daughters (a grassroots collective of Black women dedicated to providing political education for young Black girls, and adding labor to the organizing force on the ground, for the purposes of escalating, deepening, and sustaining the Black Lives Matter movement) in 2016. She first engaged with the collective through a divestment/investment political protest and is currently on its support team. Christian is pursuing legal studies to become a “power tool” for impoverished Black and Brown communities in their interactions with the law, and to acquire a skill set that will help her combat oppressive forces in her community. She wants to revive grassroots community centers that can serve as a meeting and planning space for movement organizations and where educational legal, business and skills workshops, as well as informational community meetings that focus on issues stifling communities can be held.
Basil Soper was inspired by the Diary of Ann Frank as a transgender child raised in a low-income, southern family. In NC, he ran an LGBTQ group called Just Us for All, formed in response to local gay bashings. The group advocated, built alliances, helped house homeless trans folks and worked for gender neutral bathrooms. Along with the NC ACLU, he worked to allow trans students to use names other than their legal one in the classroom. He was also part of organizing with Black Lives Matter in Asheville, NC. He has done a good bit of professional writing, mostly online for Queer publications as well as sites like Mashable, HuffPost, The Nation, Harper’s Bazaar, LGBTQ Nation and Buzzfeed, always with the goal of altering the trans narrative in the media. Most recently he is creating a multi Media project called Transilient. At age 30, he wants to finally be able to finish his bachelor’s degree, after years of delaying because of financial barriers. He says he is most concerned with racial justice issues, gender issues, classism, and environmental matters and intersects these concepts hoping to deepen his understanding of all social challenges. He will complete a BA in Creative Writing at The New School.
Felipe Vargas – Being a child of a farm-working immigrant family living transnationally, Felipe says, fuels his sociological interests in immigration, racial and ethnic relations, and social movements. While a high school teacher, he challenged the notion of Latina/o students being at risk, criminal or failures and began listening to the students, to their music and culture. His classroom became a laboratory for social analysis. He saw first-hand their social transformation as they yearned for the skills needed to effectively create social change both in their communities and in their own educational trajectory. In 2010, he was part of the Trail of Dreams, protest and march of undocumented students from Miami to DC. He joined the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) organizing civil disobedience actions around DACA, border re-entry, for profit immigrant detention center infiltrations and stopping deportations. Currently he is collaborating on a study of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) organizing structure and was recruited to be the national coordinator of training and field organizer for the National UnDACAmented Research Project (NURP) at Harvard University which has yielded the largest collection of testimonies of undocumented young people. He is motivated to study the lived inequalities of undocumented youth and their families and further understand what it means to “learn to be illegal.” Additionally, he is interested in how oppressive social constructs may obstruct the “making of a life” among undocumented youth. As a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin, he seeks to undertake a mixed approach utilizing quantitative methods and an ethnographic case study using storytelling (in-depth qualitative ethnographic interviews) to elicit stories and testimonios (testimonies) with active members of the movement.
Veronica Virgen – Following her uncle’s deportation in 2011, she began working with Comunidades Unidas En Una Voz, organizing to prevent deportations. She works with the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center as the Immigrant Rights Project coordinator offering workshops and advocating for folks filing complaints around unauthorized practice of law, notary fraud, and consumer fraud. She assists undocumented folks with defense against deportation as a legal assistant at Mid-South Immigration Advocates. Because of the increasing rate of incarceration and police brutality towards people of color she became a part of a local grassroots organizing for enforcement transparency, pushing for a Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board. She also works for Reproductive Justice, educating about health access and the need for undocumented people to have a safe place. She volunteered with Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis who is now an ally because undocumented women were willing to share their experiences and able to express the importance of intersectionality. She wants to someday practice non-profit immigration law and stay active in her community organizing and reproductive health advocacy work and is beginning a law degree at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law.
Paige Watkins lives and works within the complexities of identities, privileges and marginalization toward the liberation of all people. In Detroit, their work revolves around resilience-based projects in the city, and most of their work has been focused on building community, directly resisting and confronting those in power, and educating to empower & mobilize young people. As a way to combat the rapid gentrification in the city, they co-created Black Bottom Archives in January 2015 as an online magazine/community platform designed to amplify and create space for the long-silenced and whitewashed voices of Black Detroiters. They helped charter the Detroit chapter of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), a national activist organization for young Black people visioning a world where Black people have economic, social, political and educational freedom with a Black Queer Feminist lens. Their campaign-based work is focused around addressing and resisting the displacement of Black people. They hold community trainings and political education events, protests and direct actions. This past year, they worked with the James & Grace Lee Boggs School on the Eastside of Detroit as a community teacher for an elective class on youth-led activism and currently sits on the board of the James & Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership. Paige and a group of comrades started the Detroit Radical Childcare Collective earlier this year, providing support to organizers and activists during actions and meetings. They are pursuing a degree in Community Development to further ground their activism in the value-based learning model focused on holistic development that recognizes and enhances the human, organizational, physical and economic aspects of community. They hope to answer the question, “How do we ensure development that does not displace, but instead empowers people and communities?” Paige is working toward a MA in Community Development at the University of Detroit Mercy.
Kiyan Williams (gender pronouns they/them/theirs) is a writer, multidisciplinary artist, and organizer from Newark, NJ. They create performances, texts, objects, images, sounds, and installations informed by autoethnography, archival research, and social practice. Additionally, Kiyan organizes public programming at the intersection of art and activism. Kiyan writes, “I am following in the tradition of artist and activist like Nikki Giovanni, Marlon Riggs, Marsha P. Johnson, and June Jordan who use art as tools to inspire deep and radical change”. They are working on an MFA in Visual Arts at Columbia University. You can learn more about their work at www.kiyanwilliams.com.
Silvia Zuvieta-Rodriguez became involved with Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition following her father’s deportation, telling her story in front of decision makers and at rallies. She became active in Grassroots and was a founding member of Youth Rise Texas (YRT), a non-profit organization that works with teenagers who have had their parents incarcerated and/or deported. She has been a part of many protests, marches, workshops against racisms, lobbying opportunities, and learned about the different forms of oppression. On inauguration day, she organized a walkout and protest at her HS and led an emergency card making event in case of ICE raids. She went to DC with YRT to lobby against mandatory minimums. Striving for a world where everyone is free from the chains of oppression, she wants to continue being a part of movements for change. She will begin a BA in Global Studies and International Relations at University of Texas Austin.