We are excited to announce our 2012 Alston Bannerman Sabbatical Fellows. The 2012 Fellowship class is an amazing multi-racial, multi-generational group of leaders of color who’ve been working on a wide range of issues around the country.
The Alston Bannerman Sabbatical Fellowship was created to honor and support longtime organizers of color by providing them the resources to take time out for reflection and renewal. Fellows receive a $25,000 award to take sabbaticals for three months or more.
The son of immigrants from El Salvador, Manuel grew up in the low-income Los Angeles neighborhoods where he organizes today. He was a student leader against California’s anti-immigrant and anti-affirmative action ballot measures in the early 1990s and soon joined the Bus Riders Union (BRU), a groundbreaking project spearheaded by the Community/Labor Strategy Center. Manuel went from member to lead organizer of BRU’s successful “Billions for Buses” campaign, which replaced diesel buses with cleaner natural gas ones and significantly expanded routes and hours of service. Since 2008, he has headed the Community Rights Campaign against the school-to-prison pipeline, securing a city law rolling back zero tolerance disciplinary policies and aggressive school policing. Manuel is now the Center’s first Director of Organizing.
The teachings of her Ojibwe ancestors have guided Sharon Day’s lifelong work for indigenous people, from her involvement with the the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the early 1970s to the recent Mother Earth Water Walk from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. As founder and Executive Director of Indigenous Peoples Task Force since 1990, Sharon has developed innovative ways to improve the health of Native people, including cultural approaches to AIDS prevention and treatment, increased access to traditional and western medical services, supportive housing, a community garden, and a youth peer education program that uses theater and other arts. Sharon is a leader in the LGBT community, building Two Sprit organizations and coordinating the first Two Sprit International Gathering.
An African American native of New Orleans, Norris Henderson began organizing during the 27 years he spent in Angola Prison on a wrongful conviction. The efforts resulted in state legislation granting long-term prisoners parole eligibility after serving 20 years and reaching the age of 45. He has continued working on criminal justice issues in New Orleans with organizations including the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana and, post-Katrina, Safe Streets/Strong Communities, which helped create the Independent Police Monitor’s Office. Norris is currently Executive Director of Voice of the Ex-Offender—VOTE, which mobilizes formerly incarcerated persons around their right to vote and advocates for policies like the new state law mandating that prisoners are notified upon their release about their eligibility to register and vote.
Genaro Lopez-Rendon grew up in an activist Chicano family and is now Director of the Southwest Workers Union (SWU), a low-income membership organization struggling for workers rights, environmental justice and community empowerment, co-founded by his father. Genaro started as an intern at SWU in 1997, became an environmental justice organizer mobilizing the community around toxic contamination from Kelly Air Force Base, and took the reins as Director in 2005. He is currently spearheading a major mass-based political engagement strategy in southwest Texas. Genaro has also played a larger movement role as a co-founder or leader of the South by Southwest Experiment, Grassroots Global Justice, Just Transition Alliance, US Social Forum, Pushback Network, Project South and the Southern Movement Alliance.
Odilia Romero, Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO)/ Binational Center for the Development of Oaxacan Indigenous Communities, Los Angeles, CA
Coming to Los Angeles from her Zapotec village in Oaxaca as a child, Odilia Romero faced discrimination and hardships that engendered her commitment to the empowerment of indigenous people on both sides of the border. Over the past 14 years, serving as the elected Women’s Coordinator of the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations and manager of CBDIO’s Los Angeles office, she has promoted gender equity and youth leadership, created programs to revitalize traditional language and healthy foods, managed a micro-lending program that incudes loans for citizenship, and implemented cultural awareness training for police in response to the shooting of a Mayan man who could not understand their commands combined with a know your rights campaign in the community.
An Afro-Latina who moved from Puerto Rico to the arson prone South Bronx as a child, Wanda Salaman responded to the conditions in her community by getting involved in organizing at age 14. She has worked in the Bronx ever since, for the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition and then Mothers on the Move (MOM), where in her first six months she organized 18 tenant associations and was promoted to Co-Director. Wanda has been Executive Director of MOM since 2005, developing low-income leadership and working on the interrelated issues of education, environment, housing and employment. She recently launched a pilot green jobs training program for pubic housing residents, which grew out of a residents’ year-long Community Visioning Process.
Born and raised in Chicago’s low-income Black community, Charity Tolliver got involved in organizing as a teenager with the Southwest Youth Collaborative. She soon became a staff organizer working with other groups across the city on a successful campaign to make restorative justice an alternative to suspensions in the Chicago public schools. Her next effort, an ongoing campaign to shut down the city’s notorious juvenile detention center, has resulted in hundreds of teens being placed in community and faith-based programs instead of jail. Charity has always been actively training and nurturing the next generation, and she is currently working with the Black Youth Project to develop a leadership development, arts and culture, and organizer apprenticeship program for Chicago youth.