Saturday, October 31, 2009

Navajo activist Chelsea Chee wins young activist award

For details, contact:
Lynne Hollander Savio707-823-7293
Mobile:
707-703-9829savio@sonic.net
http://www.savio.org (Photo Chelsea Chee)
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ACTIVISTS WIN MARIO SAVIO YOUNG ACTIVIST AWARDS

Two young leaders who have been tackling the problems of climate change and environmental justice in different but complementary ways have been awarded this year's Mario Savio Young Activist Award. Each will receive $6,000, half for their projects and half to use as they wish.
Chelsea Chee, a 25-year old Navajo woman, Youth Organizer for the Black Mesa Water Coalition in Arizona, has been working to engage Indigenous youth of the Southwest in implementing climate change solutions. Through Chelsea’s leadership young Indigenous peoples are actively reorienting their tribal governments, schools, and communities towards a "greener' future. This means opposing fossil fuel extraction, encouraging sustainable living, and promoting a green job opportunities. Her efforts have resulted in the creation of numerous Indigenous youth groups throughout the rural Southwest and the passage of the Navajo Nation Green Economy legislation.
Timothy DenHerder-Thomas, 22, a senior at Macalester College in Minnesota, has devised practical new programs that focus on organizing for ecological innovation and sustainable community development. After establishing a revolving fund that helps students implement campus sustainability practices and recaptures the savings created (now over $100,000), Timothy has gone on to organize Summer of Solutions, a program that trains youth leaders to partner with local groups in developing community projects around energy efficiency, sustainable food production and urban design, and green industry.
"Chelsea and Timothy strike us as representing two key aspects of the climate debate--the need for those communities most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, though least responsible for it, to have a strong voice in the debate and the need to build bridges across class divides and challenge the system from within," stated Lynne Hollander Savio, Chairperson of the awards program. "Chelsea has had to struggle against great odds -- a vast territory, little money, and tribal history and cultural values, while Timothy has been exceptionally creative and ingenious in developing new, self-sustaining projects."
The awards for leadership ability, creativity, and integrity, were presented last night at the 13th annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture, delivered this year by journalist Naomi Klein at the University of California Berkeley campus. Both the Lecture and the Young Activist Award, which is given to a young person with a deep commitment to human rights and social justice and a proven ability to transform this commitment into effective action, honor the late Mario Savio, who came to public notice in 1964 when students at Berkeley rebelled against restrictions on political activity at the University. Their protest drew nationwide attention and stirred activism by college students across the country. Savio's words to his fellow students sparked a non-violent sit-in and the arrest of over 800 protestors, the largest mass arrest in U.S. history up till that time. They have also been quoted frequently in movies and recordings.
` "There comes a time," he said, "when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all."
Although condemned by University administrators and public opinion at the time,
the Free Speech Movement has been recognized for some years as having made a positive contribution to university life. On Savio's death, a plaque was installed naming the steps of Sproul Hall where he made his speeches as the Mario Savio Steps. The Free Speech Movement café, commemorating the protest, was opened in the undergraduate library in 1998 and has become a popular campus gathering place. The yearly lecture series which bears his name is co-sponsored by several departments at the university, and has presented such well-known speakers as journalist Molly Ivins, teacher and author Cornel West, and historian Howard Zinn.
For more information, contact Lynne Hollander Savio, savio@sonic.net, 707-823-7293 or 707-703-9829.

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