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The Maria Leavey Tribute Award award will be presented at the Take Back the American Dream conference to one of these five finalists based on your votes. Each of these finalists have been selected by a panel of Maria’s colleagues and allies from dozens of nominees based on the importance of their behind-the-scenes work for the progressive movement in the past year.
Voting is now closed. Find out more about the Maria Leavey Award.
Maria Leavey was the quintessential unsung progressive hero: an organizer with extraordinary talent, a behind-the-scenes force with an uncanny ability to connect rising young talent with Washington leaders, a tireless advocate who often worked without claiming credit or even compensation. She managed to build contacts at the highest ranks of Washington's political circles and champion the growth of progressive media, from the burgeoning ranks of progressive radio to the emerging blogosphere. At our early Take Back America conferences, Maria helped assemble the historic Progressive Media Row.
Since her death in 2006, we honor her legacy with the Maria Leavey Tribute Award, which goes to a person in the progressive movement whose behind-the-scenes work and selfless service embodies Maria's spirit and has made an invaluable contribution to social justice.
The award recipient will be an outstanding progressive who is:
A Convener who builds connections among diverse members of the progressive movement, cultivating networks of old and new leaders and activists;
A Persistent Advocate who overcomes obstacles and marches forward with an enduring commitment and passion for social justice;
A Selfless Organizer who works behind the scenes without seeking the limelight or credit for his or her efforts, while lending credit to others; and
An Idea Generator who pushes forward creative new ideas, a strong analysis of important issues, or helps build specific new capacities and infrastructure for the progressive movement.
See a short video about Maria Leavey and get more information about the award and past winners at ourfuture.org/conference/marialeavey
Jenifer Fernandez Ancona
Women Donors Network
|Jen has spent over 3 years trying to catalyze interest in crafting a progressive vision of the economy. She began by conducting in-depth interviews with movement leaders while working as a donor-advisor for Steve Phillips. At this point, she commissioned research into how to communicate about the economy, which Next, at the Roosevelt Institute, she worked to make the muck of financial markets, derivatives, toxic assets and CDOs into a story anyone could follow -- helping create the "Let Markets Be Markets" conference. Jen is, at heart, a bridge builder. She sees the need to connect all-too-separate worlds and finds common language to do so. First through the Roosevelt Institute then with National People's Action, she organized several meetings between leading progressive economists and on-the-ground organizers to share not just how to fix the economy, but how to get the message to more audiences about the need to do so. Finally, Jen is a risk-taking innovator, who recognizes the need to do things differently and willingly invests time and finds resources for research-based communication. Her work in this space forms the basis for the economic narrative work currently underway by Mike Lux, Richard Kirsch, Heather Booth and others as well as Rebuild the Dream.|
Ana Maria Archila
Make the Road New York
|Ana Maria Archila has an extraordinary capacity for inspiring people from many communities. Ana Maria worked tirelessly to build Make the Road New York (MRNY) — and its predecessor, the Latin American Integration Center (LAIC) — from a community group to a citywide institution with more than 9,000 low-income, immigrant members. MRNY has been able to bring together immigrants and LGBTQ people (and those who identify as both) to find common ground and move forward together. In 2009, MRNY won landmark civil rights complaints against New York State’s seven largest pharmacy chains, requiring translation and interpretation services at 3,000 pharmacies, and recovered more than $29 million in illegally withheld wages and benefits for low-income immigrants. In 2010, Archila convened a coalition of scores of labor, business, legal, civil rights and elected allies to pass the statewide Wage Theft Prevention Act, drafted by MRNY staff. The new law dramatically increases penalties for employers in low-wage industries who cheat workers out of minimum wage or overtime pay. Whether struggling to get healthcare for her family, helping fellow young people working 12-hour days to recover their illegally withheld wages, or being a lesbian activist in a very conservative community, Archila has understood the importance of building power for marginalized people through collective action and individual leadership development. Ana Maria’s deep commitment to social justice, rooted in her personal experience as an immigrant, has made her one of New York City’s most effective organizers and has made MRNY a national model for others who want to achieve substantive policy change from an authentic grassroots base.|
|Joshua is a renewable energy pioneer and advocate. He fiercely fought Michigan's big utility companies for true net-metering in Michigan. Net-metering allows small producers of renewable energy to "run their electric meter backwards," when generating more electricity than their home or business uses, and receive retail credit for energy sent to the grid. In Michigan Public Service Commission hearings, utilities lobbied hard for a system in which renewable energy producers would get less than half of retail value for clean energy. Once Joshua organized a cadre of energy activists to submit comments, and presented data from his own solar array's energy production, the MPSC agreed to give small renewable energy producers full retail value for all energy sent to the grid. Joshua has worked as a physics teacher at West Bloomfield High School since 1992. There, he and his students did an energy audit of the school which helped convince the school board to implement energy efficiency measures--saving more than $100,000 and a million pounds of carbon emissions annually. He spearheaded the creation of a nature preserve on school grounds, where students removed thousands of invasive plants, and planted thousands of native plants and seeds. Joshua is also the project director for the school's newly installed 3.44 kilowatt solar array, the largest solar tracking array in Metro Detroit, where students and community members can view renewable energy in action every day and learn to make their own homes more energy efficient. His own renewable energy and efficiency project can be seen at http://DreamFarm.org, where he and his wife have achieved carbon neutrality at their home through energy efficiency and solar technologies.|
United Food & Commercial Workers Union
|1,300,000 signatures in Ohio to repeal the anti-worker bill SB5: amazing. Verifying 1,300,000 signatures for the We Are Ohio campaign to repeal SB5: un-glamorous, but critically important. Getting the repeal of SB5 on the ballot with 1,000,000 more signatures than is required by law: priceless. Courtney served as the Quality Control Director for the entire state of Ohio during the petition process for SB5-repeal in Ohio. Every signature passed through her hands, went into a vault, and through a quality-control screening process to ensure the measure reached the ballot. When she first was sent to work for the unity table in Ohio, she helped develop the idea to hold a "People's Town Hall" in a town called Tiffin, population 17,000. At the first organizing meeting, she helped them create a round-table discussion with local community members and they developed a list of speakers: a nurse, a teacher, a cop, a firefighter, a former mayor, and a nun to moderate. Over 120 people attended a community meeting about SB5 in this small town. They spoke about their shared struggles and the disappearing middle class in their small town whose hopes for prosperity were quickly evaporating. Courtney was able to give them an idea and help them to convene as storytellers - she did not insert herself into the story nor did she act as the hero, she was simply a community organizer who inspired local community members to be leaders. Working with a small volunteer staff, she held trainings and coordinated operations with organizers throughout the state, but you would never know who Courtney was or the valuable service she provided unless you were on the ground for this fight in Ohio - the definition of an unsung hero.|
Health Care for All Vermont
|Dr. Deb Richter left her family practice in Buffalo, New York to move to Vermont with the express purpose of organizing for health care for all. She felt that in 10 years she could talk to every voter in Vermont and persuade most of them that single payer (like an improved Medicare for all Vermonters) was both good for people and business. With the help of other like minded Vermonters, she was finally successful with the election of Governor Shumlin who ran his campaign on this approach to health reform and helped to persuade the Vermont legislature to support the governor in legislation to bring this to pass. The legislation setting the stage for this reform was passed and the process is underway to make Vermont the first state to cover everyone with health care. She is an Unsung Hero of health care reform.|