Join us in congratulating our 2012 Activist Awardees!

Each year, the Washington Peace Center is thrilled to present Activist Awards to incredible individuals and organizations making huge strides in their struggles towards social justice in DC. This year's awardees are no exception; they've been busy with everything from providing urban spaces to grow fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables, to providing legal services for protestors, to making housing in DC more affordable for everyone, and the list goes on. We are looking forward to honoring them at our annual Activist Awards on Thursday, December 6th. Without further ado, here are our 2012 Activist Awardees!

Beet Street Gardens is a three-season-old project that cultivates gardens and gardeners in partnership with organizations that have long-standing relationships working in communities facing significant barriers to safe, peaceful outdoor space, and healthy, affordable food. With their partners (HIPS, Sasha Bruce Youthwork, Pathways to Housing, and Brookland Manor Community Center) and community members, Beet Street Gardens has cultivated seven vegetable gardens and two fruit orchards throughout NE DC. Community members have utilized these garden spaces to seek stress release and increased well-being, to grow food for the community, and to launch a pilot entrepreneurial business—sweet potato pies! Looking forward, Beet Street Gardens envisions a collective project that supports solid community driven gardens throughout DC, and a cooperative business featuring the lovely fruits of their labor.

Brian Best and St. Stephen's ChurchLong before it developed a reputation as a progressive Christian community, St. Stephen's Church ushered in new ways of being a church. Before women were granted the right to vote in governmental elections, St. Stephen's allowed women to vote on parish matters. When faced in the 1950s with the choice of staying a white church, closing and moving to the suburbs, or allowing African-Americans to become members, St. Stephen's voted "that the registry of this parish remain open to all who seek our churchmanship"--and thus became the first integrated Episcopal church in the Diocese of Washington. In the 1960s St. Stephen's took on the identity it retains today. St. Stephen’s developed new liturgies that became common practice throughout the Episcopal Church. St. Stephen’s helped lead the movement to allow women to be ordained. Two members of St. Stephen’s held one of the first Holy Union ceremonies in a mainline Christian denomination. St. Stephen’s helped build Urban Village, the workforce housing complex that surrounds the church on three sides. And St. Stephen’s opened its doors again and again to people needing a place to sleep, organize, celebrate, and work for justice. St. Stephen’s is now holding its first ever capital campaign, to make improvements to our building to allow it to continue as a community resource for decades to come. For more information on this initiative click on “Widening The Circle” on their website.

Brian Best has been St. Stephen’s administrator since 1997, and a member of St. Stephen’s since 1984. He says he doesn’t steer this bus; he simply tries to fit into the bus as many people as possible.

Chai Shenoy, Chai Shenoy is the co-founder of Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), a volunteer-run and led grassroots organization whose aim is to educate and address public sexual harassment and assault in the DC Metro area.  Started in April 2009, CASS has collected over 400 experiences from DC metro residents experiencing or witnessing public sexual harassment or assault while riding the bus or Metro, walking on the sidewalk or through a park, riding a bike, or going out. Chai’s activism bug bit her when she was in college, working to organize efforts to address right wing attacks on “liberal education” and “women’s rights.” From there, she attended and graduated law school, represented gender-based violence victims in civil court, and teaches at local universities on the theoretical and practical structures creating and addressing gender-based violence. Originally from the Bay Area, CA, Chai lives in DC with her toddler-turned-teen who is 14 months old, an 8-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, and a 30-something husband.

Dave Richardson, Dave Richardson is a lifetime activist. He recently retired as an Economist, but is one of the most active members in his Union and plays a critical role on the DC Jobs with Justice Board.  He was arrested as a student at Berkeley during the occupation of Sproul Hall at the height of the free speech movement in 1964 and continues to agitate for peace and justice.  He’s been active in his union, AFGE, since 2000 and worked to keep Local 12 connected to the broader labor movement.  Locally, he is active in the anti-Wal-Mart campaign and supports dignity and justice for day laborers, as well as being a major support for the DC Restaurant Opportunity Center’s “Dignity at Darden” campaign.  He’s currently the head of the Labor Commission for DC-Democratic Socialists of America, a delegate to the Metro Washington Central Labor Council from AFGE Council 1 and PAC Director for AFGE District 14, both covering all AFGE-represented Federal employees in the DC area.  His nominator said: “ He represents and demonstrates progressive values, solidarity, and a lifetime dedication to social justice.”

The Housing For All Campaign is a project of the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED). The Housing For All Campaign began because CNHED's members saw that a more ambitious approach to housing advocacy was needed to truly address DC's growing housing need. The campaign is based on the vision that all District residents deserve decent quality housing at a price they can afford, and calls on District officials to invest in the programs that meet that need. Since early 2011, the Housing For All Campaign has engaged 2,500 supporters and dozens of organizations to fight for more affordable housing across the Continuum of Housing: from permanent housing for the homeless to home ownership and everything in between.

The goal of Housing for All is that the District should invest more money in housing programs that work to make housing affordable. Unfortunately, the campaign has had to focus over the last two years on preventing cuts to affordable housing programs. Through the dedicated work of residents and practitioners, the Housing For All Campaign has prevented cuts, received commitments of future resources, and increased funds for various housing programs, even in the face of tens of millions of dollars of proposed cuts. The Housing For All Campaign is committed to fighting for a DC where residents of all income levels can afford to live and thrive.

The DC Immigrant Rights Coalition is made up of labor, faith, civil and immigrant rights groups as well as groups against domestic violence. The coalition formed in fall 2009 in response to the imminent activation of a federal deportation program in the city called "Secure Communities"(S-Comm). Over the past three years the coalition has achieved some major victories: Becoming the first city in the nation to withdraw from S-Comm when it was still voluntary; enacting a Mayor’s Executive Order stopping the unjust deportation of Jai Shankar, a DC resident who reported a crime and ended up in deportation proceedings; and the unanimous passage of a DC bill that will protect hundreds of families from the threat of deportation by limiting immigration enforcement in the DC jail. The work of the DC Immigrant Rights Coalition has made DC a lightning rod in a national movement against the mass deportation and criminalization of immigrants.

The Ivy City Civic Association Youth Committee is comprised of eight youth who worked in community organizing and outreach. For example, two youth worked in the Empower DC media project editing and shooting film. The youth received training to develop interpersonal skills, as well as skills in media and technology, the arts and administration. They participated in weekly meetings, attending ANC meetings, supported meetings in Ward 5, and volunteered at community events such as the Ivy City reunion day and the back to school book bag giveaway. In addition, the Committee participated in a protest against environmental injustice in their community during which theypassed out literature and spoke to people regarding their concerns. They organized and led an anecdotal survey of residents in their community with respiratory problems which allowed them to spread the word for the community meetings. As a result, the Youth Committee successfully collected over 100 surveys and organized a meeting where over 75 residents attended. Thanks to their successes, the Youth Committee decided to extend their responsibilities out to a Jr. Civic association. Over the summer the youth showed a tremendous amount of leadership and resilience.

Jeffrey Light is an attorney in Washington, DC whose practice focuses on representing political activists. Mr. Light defends activists in criminal cases, works to uncover government surveillance of political movements through Freedom of Information Act cases, and represents individuals and groups in civil rights cases against federal and local law enforcement. Beginning in the Fall of 2011, Mr. Light has worked with the National Lawyers Guild to provide legal support to the Occupy movement, advising and training activists and other lawyers, litigating over a dozen cases on behalf of Occupy DC members, legal observing at protests, and answering calls to the legal helpline. In addition to his work representing political activists, Mr. Light has been an advocate for transgender civil rights, volunteering with the DC Trans Coalition for the past seven years. Mr. Light earned his JD from Georgetown University Law Center in 2004.

Judith Davidson Hawkins is the Co-founder of You-Nique Services, Inc. and a Community Organizer at Bread for the City. Judith co-hosts Valencia’s It Is What It Is Mobile Talk Show. The show is an online platform for people who live in communities that are often ignored by mainstream media to tell their stories; and as a way to air local community events. Judith believes that media produced by and for the community can be a powerful tool. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million. After years of “climbing the corporate ladder” from a file clerk at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to a Financial Management Analyst at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Judith followed her heart and left the federal government after 23 ½ years. She “invested” her “retirement funds” in raising homeless youth along with her childhood friend and now business partner Valencia Rutledge. Judith was homeless from 2005 to 2009, but continued to work to be a “voice for the voiceless.” Judith is the mother of two children ages 18 and 23. She enjoys laughing, crocheting, reading, dancing and making people smile. Judith believes in miracles and knows that we can change the world, one person at a time.