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The sixth annual Maria Leavey Tribute Award will be presented at the Take Back the American Dream conference. The award goes to a person whose tireless, behind-the-scenes work has been critical to the success of the progressive movement in the past year.
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.
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.
Our sixth annual Maria Leavey Tribute Award will be presented at the Take Back the American Dream  conference. The award honors an unsung hero of the progressive movement whose behind-the-scenes work and selfless service has made a major contribution to social justice.
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.
Join us in honoring Maria's memory by heralding the work of those tireless organizers in our midst who light a fire under the rest of us.
Maria Leavey never held a staff position with a major organization or media outlet. She worked out of her small apartment in Washington with an outdated computer. But, with incredible determination and skill 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.
Maria helped assemble the Campaign for America's Future's historic Progressive Media Row at the Take Back America conference. She was a passionate progressive who understood the importance of talent, humor, a good conversation and a warm meal.
Sadly, after years of selfless service to our progressive movement, Maria passed away on December 31, 2006, at the all-too-young age of 52.
We continue to commemorate Maria's life and spirit, and honor the legacy that she left behind by recognizing other unsung progressive heroes who follow in her footsteps. We cannot have enough Americans striving to be like Maria.
In 2011, Courtney Foley won the Maria Leavey Award for her work to repeal Ohio's anti-worker bill SB5. Courtney served as the Quality Control Director for the entire state of Ohio during the petition process for the SB5-repeal effort. 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.
The 2010 Maria Leavey Tribute Award recipient was Lanya Shapiro from Durham, N.C., a social entrepreneur, tireless activist and organizer, and part of the vanguard of the modern progressive movement. Her most recent cutting-edge endeavor is Traction, a Durham, N.C.-based offline social network designed to turn young voters into energized and engaged activists who will, over time, power the progressive movement as volunteers, donors, board members and elected officials.
The 2009 Maria Leavey Tribute Award winner, Graciela Sanchez, was honored for her more than 20 years of work as the director of the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center in San Antonio. Under Graciela’s leadership, the Esperanza Center has become the gathering place for social justice advocates in the labor, immigration, gay and lesbian rights, health care and environmental movements.
The first Maria Leavey Tribute Award recipient, Ari Lipman, put aside graduate work at Harvard to serve as an organizer for the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, where he mobilized 1,000 volunteers and successfully pressured the political and business elite to enact universal health care in Massachusetts. Watch Lipman's acceptance speech.