Congratulations to our 2016 Activist Awardees! (scroll down to see their bios)
The Power to the People Award -- Jenny Tang and Vera Watson, Museum Square Tenants Association, for their organizing to preserve affordable housing at the Museum Square building in Chinatown
The Speak Truth To Power Award - Dr. Maha Hilal, National Coalition To Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF), for her work to end torture, center Muslim families and prisoners impacted by the War on Terror, and organize against Islamophobia.
The No Justice No Peace Award - Marion Hopkins, Coalition of Concerned Mothers, for co-founding the People's Coalition for Police Accountability after losing her son Gary to police terrorism in 1999, and becoming a leading voice for police accountability nationally.
The Be The Change Award - People for Fairness Coalition for their consistent work on organizing against homelessness in the District and their annual vigil that pays respect to the homeless lives lost in the District.
The Another World Is Possible Award - The DC Movement for Black Lives for their organizing against racism, state violence and police brutality, and centering Black lives in DC.
The People Over Profit Award - Shilpa Joshi, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, for her powerful work for environmental justice that led to anti-fracking legislation wins in Maryland.
Empowering The Future Youth Award: Rodrigo Velasquez, Mason DREAMERS, for building a more supportive environment for undocumented students on George Mason's campus through the ACCESS Mason Program.
Helga Herz Lifetime Achievement Award: Sister Megan Rice, Transform Now Ploughshares, for her tireless activism for the abolition of nuclear weapons and serving jail time for breaking into a nuclear plant.
Jenny Tang was born in Guangzhou, China and moved to the US over two decades ago. She and her two daughters have lived at Museum Square for six years, and have become some of the most outspoken residents of the building. Jenny and her daughters, ages 10 and 12, work tirelessly to inform their neighbors of the rights they have as tenants to remain in the building where they live, and help with interpretation and translation for Chinese speaking residents of Museum Square, including accompanying them to medical and other appointments, and translating documents. Jenny has given her neighbors the courage to fight, and residents look to her as a leader in their struggle to save Museum Square.
Vera Watson is the acting president of the Museum Square Tenants Association. She was born and raised in Washington DC and worked most of her life as a Special Police Officer in a variety of venues throughout the city. She is a mother of two, grandmother of four, and great-grandmother of four as well. Ms. Watson has lived at Museum Square for 35 years, and has been active in the building’s community and tenant associations since the early 90s, serving in many different positions on the board. In recent years she has lead the residents in the fight to save Museum Square in the face of proposed demolition and displacement.
Dr. Maha Hilal is the Executive Director of the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, an organization dedicated to addressing civil and human rights abuses related to preemptive prosecutions and thoughts crimes in the War on Terror. She is also an Adjunct Professor at George Mason University, where she teaches classes on Muslims and Muslim American responses to the War on Terror. Concurrent with both positions, Dr. Hilal is also an Islamophobia consultant for the Team Baluchi Defense Team and supports research on anti-Muslim bias in the legal system. Dr. Hilal earned her doctorate in May 2014 from the Department of Justice, Law and Society at American University in Washington, D.C. The title of her dissertation is "Too damn Muslim to be trusted": The War on Terror and the Muslim American response.
She received her Master's Degree in Counseling and her Bachelor's Degree in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has worked at a number of human rights/social justice organizations including the Center for Victims of Torture, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and the Government Accountability Project. Maha was previously a Christine Mirzayan Fellow at the National Academy of Sciences as well as a recipient of the Department of State's Critical Language Scholarship for Arabic study in Morocco.
Marion Gray-Hopkins is a retired banking executive. In 2000 she began her work as an activist in the movement for justice, police accountability and transparency after the senseless killing of her unarmed 19 year-old son Gary Hopkins, Jr. in November 1999 by a Prince Georges County, MD police officer.She is a member of the Prince Georges County Peoples Coalition and Maryland Coalition for Justice and Police Accountability (MCJPA). She was a core team member in organizing the Million Moms March in May 2015. She’s actively engaged with organizations such American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Code Pink, Progressive Maryland, Amnesty International, Mothers for Justice United, ONUS Inc.
Her advocacy work has afforded her meetings with White House and Department of Justice Department officials to discuss needed reform. She has turned her pain into passion and power, becoming a catalyst for change. Currently she is the President of a newly formed organization (COCM) Coalition of Concerned Mothers. comprised of a group of local mothers whose ultimate goal is to stop police brutality and senseless community violence. She is a mother of 3, grandmother of 6, and a great grandmother of 2. She currently lives in Upper Marlboro, MD.
The People for Fairness Coalition (PFC) formed in April 2008 to address issues of homelessness and housing in Washington, DC. Miriam’s Kitchen guests and staff members worked together to start PFC. Currently and formerly homeless individuals, as well as concerned community members, meet every Tuesday morning from 8:15-9:30AM at Miriam’s Kitchen (2401 Virginia Ave NW). PFC has generated an ongoing, positive discussion about important advocacy efforts and has taken several actions to push for better policies. PFC members have testified at several City Council hearings before the Committee on Human Services. Group members are active members in local coalitions and have been critical participants at Interagency Council for the Homeless (ICH) meetings. PFC host different key representatives and leaders who work on homelessness for dialogues and informational sessions, including the Director of the Department of Human Services and City Council members.
We are honoring representatives from four local organizations who are part of the DC Movement for Black Lives.
Black Lives Matter DMV
Black Lives Matter DMV is a collective of organizers, activists, and artists in the DC, MD and VA tri-state area who work to combat anti-blackness and racialized oppression in all of its manifestations as experienced by Black and African diasporic people. The mission of Black Lives Matter DMV is to actualize liberation right now by confronting and dismantling structural oppression, creating radical healing spaces to process racial stress and internalized oppression, combating erasure of marginalized Black people everywhere it appears, building community power within Black neighborhoods, and forming critical connections with Black folks who share the same desire for collective liberation.
Black Youth Project 100 (BYP 100) is an activist member-based organization of Black 18-35 year olds, dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people. We do this through building a collective focused on transformative leadership development, direct action organizing, advocacy and education. We are committed to engaging in meaningful action to fulfill our mission and realize our collective vision through a democratic, consensus driven process. Our actions are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic (yet visionary), and time-specific.
Stop Police Terror Project DC:
Stop Police Terror Project DC is an organization in the Washington D.C. area committed to changing the system of racist, militarized policing in our region. We work to oppose police abuses and also to build community-led peacekeeping efforts to empower oppressed communities to deal with their own security concerns.
Dedicated to the liberation and declaration of black humanity by any means necessary. We fight for our human rights and we awaken minds.
Shilpa just wrapped up three years with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, where she worked to empower and engage communities and students across Maryland fighting fracking and pushing for clean energy. A native of Portland, Oregon, Shilpa came to Washington, DC to study international environmental policy at American University. She discovered her passion for organizing through Eco-Sense, American University’s powerhouse sustainability group on campus. Through Eco-Sense, Shilpa led an overhaul of the school’s purchasing policies, including to help set up a fund to purchase wind power for the school's facilities. She worked with the Energy Action Coalition to recruit dozens of students to Power Shift in 2007 and 2009. More recently, Shilpa was appointed co-chair of the planning committee for Power Shift 2013. As an avid fan of music and food, Shilpa enjoys dancing at U Street Music Hall and making elaborate meals with her friends.
Rodrigo is a senior at George Mason University, located in Fairfax, Virginia, studying Communication and in the Accelerated Masters in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Women and Gender Studies. He is the current President of Mason DREAMers, a student organization that advocates for greater access to higher education for undocumented students, and works at Mason as the Student Support Coordinator within the Office of Diversity Inclusion and Multicultural Education at George Mason University. His personal experience being undocumented motivates him every day to do his best to support undocumented immigrants and their families, both biological and chosen families.
Megan Rice was born in January of 1930 and has been a Sister of the Holy Child Jesus since completing high school in New York City. She presently lives in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington DC. Having witnessed the advent of the nuclear era as a child, she pledged, upon returning to the United States permanently in 2002 to commit herself to working against the arms race. For seven years that commitment entailed work at the Nevada Desert Experience confronting the Nevada test site, where over 1000 nuclear weapons have been exploded over 70 plus years. After attending the trial and sentencing of the Disarm Now Plowshares (who had entered the US Navy’s Nuclear Bunker storage area) in 2011, she was inspired to follow suite.
On July 28, 2012, the Transform Now Plowshares, including Sister Megan along with Greg Boertje-Obed of Duluth MN and Michael Walli of Dorothy Day Catholic Worker here in Washington DC entered the Y12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge TN and proceeded through three security fences to the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, known often up to that point as the “Ft. Knox of uranium,” a storage building holding 400 metric tons of bomb-grade uranium, enough for 10,000 nuclear weapons. At the building they symbolically disarmed the building with their hammers, poured human blood on it, spray-painted disarmament messages and when, confronted by a security guard, prayed, offered bread and read their indictment of Y12 and their statement of conscience. The effect of their action was immediate; the plant was shut down for two weeks pending a security review.
Sr. Megan and the Transform Now Plowshares were tried and convicted of property damage and sabotage in Federal Court the following May, and remanded to jail pending sentencing. In February of 2014 they were sentenced, Megan to 3 years and Greg and Michael to 5 years. In May of 2015 an appellate court overturned their sabotage conviction and ordered their immediate release, following two years in prison. Since release last year, Sr. Megan has travelled the country – and recently even Europe – to tell her story and to encourage further nonviolent resistance to the nuclear threat. Now eighty-six years young, she has listened to the call to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with her God” and responded with a lifelong journey that says yes to transformation of the world into the Beloved Community articulated by Reverand Martin Luther King Jr.