Do It Anyway

ACTIVISTS

Emily Abt is a tough-talking independent director, determined to thread race and gender issues into her films. Raised in ritzy Cambridge, Emily was all but obsessed with hip hop culture. An innate attraction to suffering brought her to social work, until she realized that she was playing the martyr in a job she didn’t really love when her passions and gifts lay elsewhere. Today, she preaches “social courage,” believing that political correctness is an obstacle to creating real relationships across racial divides.

Tyrone Boucher inherited $400,000 upon high school graduation and decided to give every last penny away. But first he had an adventure—dropping out of Stanford and living the life of a vagabond. Soon Tyrone grew disenchanted with the lack of race and class consciousness among his peers and linked up with a burgeoning movement of young wealth inheritors (many of them queer or trans-identified) instead. Resource Generation, as the organization is known, is turning philanthropy on its head and really freaking their parents out in the process. Tyrone blogs here and speaks widely.

Rachel Corrie made headlines in 2003 when she was killed trying to stop an Israeli Army bulldozer from destroying a Palestinian’s family’s home in the Gaza Strip. Instantaneously, interest groups all over the map tried to latch on to her legacy and contort it for their own purposes—some elevating her to saint status, others dismissing her as a naïve zealot. Martin shuts out the hype and relies on Rachel’s own words, of which there are many, to try to investigate what she was really searching for when she left the comfort of Olympia, Washington and put herself in the middle of a foreign conflict that she had no personal connection to.

Rosario Dawson is faced with an enviable problem: too much power. In a culture that worships celebrities and beautiful women, Rosario is in high demand. But she longs to engage with her favorite causes—girl’s and women’s rights, Latino political engagement, the environment—as a genuine activist, not a token celebrity spokesperson. Her journey from the squat on the Lower East Side where she grew up to the most exclusive parties in Hollywood give her a particularly unique perspective on what really constitutes a fulfilling life. She speaks with absolute candor in this revealing and very real profile.

Raul Diaz has dedicated his life to getting kids to reject the ubiquitous gang life of their ‘hood in East L.A. and imagine a bigger, less violent world. At Homeboy Industries, Raul, along with his mentor, Father Greg Boyle, provides some of the country’s most violent juvenile offenders with a tight knit community and pathways to respect that rival the lure of the streets. Raul specializes in helping young guys transition from prison back into the real world to start anew. Some make it, many do not; Raul is left with a neighborhood worth of sad stories and, too often, a broken heart.

Maricela Guzman enlisted in the military with hopes of elevating her hardworking immigrant family from the brink of poverty to a more comfortable life. Instead, she was sexually assaulted in boot camp by a superior officer and left psychologically destroyed. Maricela struggled through years of relationship woes, post traumatic stress disorder, and silence, until finally meeting a group of other women veterans who were speaking out about the violence they’d experienced at the hands of their own peers in the military. Together, they started the Service Women’s Action Network.

Nia Robinson is the new face of the environmental justice movement. Raised by two Civil Rights activists in Detroit, activism was the water she swam in. When she discovered that a toxic power plant was making her friend sick, and connected the dots between astronomical asthma rates in her community and environmental factors (among other epiphanies), she knew she had found her calling. Today she travels the world educating folks on the little recognized reality that it is women, children, and people of color who are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis.

Dena Simmons is an educator born and raised in the Bronx, who doesn’t plan on ever leaving. The daughter of a powerful, resilient mother who escaped abuse and poverty in Antigua to come to the U.S., Dena studied hard on hospital floors as her twin sister suffered from a chronic disease and inadequate medical treatment. After graduating with honors from Middlebury College, Dena returns to the Bronx to teach 7th grade, inspiring her students to see themselves as college-bound, despite the fact that they live in the poorest Congressional district in the country. But Dena’s own aspirations call. Will she leave the classroom, where she is so needed and talented, to pursue a Ph.D.?

EVENTS

February 15, 2011
Washington University-St. Louis

February 23, 2011
El Salvador

March 18/19, 2010 | 2pm
Endangered Species Summit
New York, NY

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Copyright ©2010 Courtney E. Martin. All Rights Reserved.