It’s time for nominations for the Maria Leavey Tribute Award. If you know someone who deserves this award, please nominate them! This annual 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.
From the Wisconsin capitol steps where people resisted Governor Walker’s attacks on unions, to Zuccotti Park and the Occupy Wall Street , to the online boycotts of the Susan G. Komen fund for defunding Planned Parenthood and right now taking action against Rush Limbaugh’s insults of women, progressives on the ground are taking matters into their own hands, and getting it done.
Thousands of Americans have played key roles — quietly, behind the scenes — to fight and win these battles, unbeknown to the rest of the 99% who are benefiting from their brains and sweat.
Who Was Maria Leavey?
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.
The Sixth Annual Maria Leavey Tribute Award
The sixth annual Maria Leavey Tribute Award will be presented at the CAF’s annual “Take Back The American Dream” conference, which takes place June 18-20. 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.
Past Maria Leavey Award Winners
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.